my employee’s boyfriend asked for my permission to marry her, managing an incredibly efficient person, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My employee’s boyfriend asked for my permission to marry her

The boyfriend of one of my reports recently contacted me because he said he had something important to discuss. He said he was planning on proposing to my report and wanted to get my permission before he did. I had no idea why he would ask me, and he explained that his girlfriend was raised by her mother after her father divorced her when she was pregnant and her mother only had help from her unmarried sisters and widowed mother and said I’m the closest thing she has to a father figure. My report and I have a manager/employee relationship but that’s as far as it goes. We aren’t involved in each other’s personal lives (to the point where I didn’t even know she was raised only by her mother with no involvement from her father), I can’t recall a time when we have spoken outside of work, and we have never been alone in the same room outside of the building we work in.

I certainly care about my report as much as I do everyone I work with but I have no feeling beyond that. I know she has lived with her boyfriend for a while and she has brought him to company picnics and Christmas parties before. He even showed me texts where they discussed getting married in the future and she mentions me being like a father to her and saying my blessing would be great. But to me it feels awkward and weird since I hardly know either one of them. My report has never told me she considers me like a father or attempted to have a relationship with me besides a professional manager/employee one. I want to gently let them down. How should I handle this without making the situation even more awkward than it already is? Especially since the proposal is meant to be a surprise and I don’t want to ruin it.

This is super weird.

I’d just tell him that you think your employee is great but that as her boss you wouldn’t feel comfortable with it, but that you wish them both much happiness.

2. Managing an incredibly efficient employee finishes all his work ahead of schedule

I have an employee who is extremely efficient. He finishes tasks in about half the time of his predecessors. I give him additional work, but he still ends up with significant downtime. I’m inclined to ask him to search for efficiency ideas but success in that will lead to more downtime. Any ideas? I certainly don’t want to tell a great worker to slow down but in all honesty I wish he would!

Talk to him! Explain the situation and give him a few different options, depending on what’s feasible, and see what he would prefer. For example, you might be able to offer to let him come in later or leave early when his workload allows it. Or if his workflow would make that tricky to do, maybe he’d be happy to have your blessing to use his downtime to pursue his own projects (whether it’s reading or studying a subject he’s interested in or whatever). Or maybe he’d be glad to take on additional responsibilities that haven’t traditionally fallen to the person in his role. (If you offer that, you should probably be paying him more. But if that’s not an option, he still might appreciate the chance to build his resume; you should just be up-front if you can’t pay him more, and let him decide for himself if it’s worth it to him or not.)

Basically, think through what the options might be, present them to him, and let him weigh in on what would make him the happiest.

3. Did this candidate mislead us about college?

I interviewed someone who seemed like an strong fit. The behavior, technical, and simulation-job-responsibility portions of the interview were all above average, and the candidate had some relevant experience that showed. They were well-spoken and outgoing, both of which are important for the position.

As a policy, my company requests transcript for recent graduates which, of course, requires candidate approval.

The candidate, who has listed a moderately high major GPA on their resume, had failed many courses in their area of study, one class more than once, and spread out over their whole college career.

At first, I was shocked and dismayed by the apparent lie: no way those F’s lead to that GPA. After investigating their school’s policy, it is likely that most, if not all, of those F’s would not be counted towards a GPA since they were retaken and passed within four attempts. As such, they weren’t lying, but a hiring manager is very concerned about the number of failed courses, even if they later passed most of them. Worth noting is that while this major is a plus, it is not a requirement for their position.

Should we call and ask the candidate about this? Is their behavior misleading? Would you hire a candidate that interviewed well upon finding out that they had failed multiple somewhat relevant courses? I feel that one way, we may be passing on a solid candidate haunted by tough times or poor decisions, but the other way, we risk hiring someone who can’t follow through or is willing to sweep negatives under the rug — a problem in any industry, but especially for their potential position.

If the school considers the person’s GPA to be, say, 3.8 because of the way they calculate it, then the candidate didn’t do anything wrong by reporting a GPA of 3.8. You didn’t ask, “Did you fail a bunch of courses?” You asked for GPA, and that’s what you got.

So I don’t think this candidate was shady or misleading.

However, if you have concerns about the number of failed courses, ask the person about it! You might find out that they were dealing with a serious health issue during that time or going through a family crisis. Or you might find out that they spent most of their college years drunk, who knows. But if the person’s performances in the courses is important to you, then ask and give them a chance to explain before you assume anything.

(And of course, if this person weren’t a recent graduate, I’d tell you to ignore this altogether and look at what they’ve accomplished since leaving school, which is a better predictor of success than their GPA anyway. But it sounds like they did graduate recently, so that may be irrelevant advice.)

4. My name was misspelled on a plaque

I recently hit a milestone at work, and I was given a lovely plaque to commemorate the occasion, but unfortunately my last name was misspelled on it. (It was actually the capitalization in my last name that was incorrect. I have had to ask for this correction before on company phone lists, which makes me think that it is our office manager who is continuing to make this same mistake, only this time it’s on something permanent)

I want to ask my boss to have it fixed (who wants a plaque with their name misspelled on it?) but I am feeling so awkward about pointing out this mistake. I feel like this should have been caught before it was presented to me at a company event. How can I go about asking for a correction withing feeling awkward about it? Unfortunately this isn’t something where I can suggest a fix or do it myself.

It’s perfectly reasonable to expect that your name would be spelled correctly on something permanent and something that’s meant to honor you.

Say this: “This was so lovely to receive — thank you. I’d like to display it on my office because it means a lot to me, but my last name was misspelled. Is there a way to get a corrected one?”

(I think some people may feel like capitalization isn’t quite as important as correct spelling, but it’s your name and it should be accurate and how you capitalize it is part of that.)

5. Verb tense on your resume

When describing your current job on your resume, should you write your job description in past tense?

You should use present tense for your current job as long as those are things you’re currently doing. However, when you’re talking about specific accomplishments that you’ve already achieved and are not still doing, those should go in past tense. (For example, you’d write “lowered payment time by 30% by revamping the client billing system” since you’ve already done that. But you’d write “manage a team” of six if you’re still doing that currently.)

(And of course, for past jobs, you’d use all past tense.)

{ 579 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, this is so weird. Like, seriously so deeply weird. I think it’s ok for you to decline to join the crazy train.

    Part of me wonders if he made up the texts. I know that sounds crazy, but it would be so strange for your employee to consider you a father figure when you’re not that close and the feeling is t mutual. . . . which makes me wonder if bf is up to other strangeness.

    Reply
    1. gingerblue

      So, so weird. If someone I were dating asked ANYONE for permission to marry me–my father, my mother, my brother, my cat–they could skip asking me afterwards, because I am a friggin’ adult woman, not property, and anyone who is confused on that point is not marriage material. But at least they’d be confused within a certain range of cultural norms? Norms I find icky, but which I guess a lot of people don’t? But asking my employer would be so far over the weirdness threshold that I have no words.

      I have no advice; just befuddlement. Echoing Princess Consuela Banana Hammock, was it totally clear that employee was on board with this? So weird.

      Reply
      1. Gaia

        This. Right here. My father isn’t around but I had a serious fella once tell me that if he ever proposed he’d be sure to ask my grandfather for permission. I was so baffled I didn’t even understand what he meant – permission for *what*? Grandfather’s opinion of the person I marry is important but I certainly do not need his, or anyone’s PERMISSION to enter into a marriage. Well, I suppose I should get the permission of the guy I’m marrying but that just seems like common courtesy :)

        Reply
        1. Analysis Paralysis

          LW 1, sometimes young people experience a type of transference when they enter the workforce, where bosses / authority figures become “parental” in their minds.

          I agree with Alison’s assessment – you can decline graciously. Perhaps something like this would work (spoken in a kindly, dare I even say ‘fatherly’ tone):
          “Wakeen, Jane certainly is a great employee and I enjoy having her on my team. It’s nice to hear that I’ve been a positive role model for her. (pause; use super-earnest tone) Wakeen, the only permission you and Jane need is… each other’s. You don’t need me to be a part of this equation. You both have good heads on your shoulders and if you want to be married, then you should go for it!”

          If he pushes back (“It would just mean so much to her…”) then you can clarify the boundary:
          “Wakeen, I know you said that Jane sees me as a father figure, and I am happy to hear that I’ve been a positive role model for her. However, as her boss, it really wouldn’t be appropriate for me to ‘give permission’ for something happening in her life outside of work. You guys have Got This without me. Of course I wish you both much happiness!”
          Alternate version:
          “Wakeen, Jane was raised by just her mother. In that sense, her mother was both a Mother and a Father. So if it is really important to Jane that permission be given, then her mother is the right person to talk to.”

          Reply
          1. Analysis Paralysis

            BTW, I agree that this ‘permission’ thing is totally out of whack. All adults have a right to self-determination and complete agency over our own bodies and our own lives. I hate that my Alternate Version doesn’t kill the ‘permission’ thing, but I offered it because it may be more important for LW to get out of this awkward situation than to make a stand against ‘permission’.

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            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Agreed, and I like the scripts. The permission thing comes from when the law considered women as their father’s property, which was then being transferred to their husband. It’s really not a good look. I understand many people find it charming, but I would be pretty taken aback if I saw non-related individuals reenacting that dynamic in the workplace.

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              1. Mallory Janis Ian

                . . . I would be pretty taken aback if I saw non-related individuals reenacting that dynamic in the workplace.

                It makes it seem that the would-be groom is looking for a man — any man — to transfer the woman to him because a woman’s (her own or even her single mother’s) is not sufficient. Definitely not a good look. :-/

                Reply
            2. Ask a Manager Post author

              I removed a huge number of comments here that were sharing personal stories and stances about asking for marriage permission. Please keep your comments relevant to advice for the letter writer.

              Reply
              1. Phyllis B

                I understand why you removed the comments and personal stories, but I’m sorry you did because I bet that was interesting.

                Reply
          2. Beancounter Eric

            Very well said!!

            On one hand, I believe LW1 can/should be honored boyfriend asked – on the other, it’s 2017, and asking permission of a prospective spouse’s father/father figure etc. is rather archaic. Also, it’s very much an affront to anyone of a libertarian mind….self-determination, consent, etc.

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            1. VroomVroom

              I disagree with being honored. I’d be weirded out if someone thought that we were closer than I thought we were. (I’d liken it to an acquaintance telling someone we’re best friends… like, no we’re not? I don’t dislike you but I hardly know you?)

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              1. VroomVroom

                To clarify – I mean significantly closer than I thought we were.

                A close friend referring to me as a bestie or something, yea that’s fine even if they’re not quite on my bestie rung. But an actual acquaintance, or a tertiary friend that you’re only really friends with because they’re part of a larger group of friends you know, but you’re not one on one friends with saying you’re their bestie? Yea, that’d weird me out.

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          3. MillersSpring

            I disagree. These scripts veer the conversation back into the OP giving lovely advice like a warm father figure, which is exactly what he’s trying to avoid.

            Alison’s direct script is far better.

            Reply
      2. Sam

        This was my thought, too, because it seems unfathomable to me that she would be ok with him asking permission from a practically random man in her life simply because he was a man. I realize not everyone shares my/my friends’ view on this, but even if she is fine with the concept of asking permission, asking her boss instead of her mom is something else entirely. I feel like the boss is likely to have some clue about she might feel this – if she’s on board with that extreme level of paternalism, I feel like it would spill over into other perspectives/opinions she expresses.

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        1. Allison

          To me it just takes the sexism of the “ask her father” thing to a whole new level, where he considers her *boss* a more important parent figure than her actual mother. WTF?

          Reply
        2. Falling Diphthong

          I could see ‘it has to be a man for the ritual to properly play out’ coming from either one of the young people. (As a TV plot I loathe “she hasn’t talked to her father for years, but boyfriend has to find him to ask permission” no matter which of the three people involved mouths this platitude. But these are real people, so I just feel like she may have always wanted a father figure, in a wistful way, and so a great boss who happens to be male has landed in that role in her head.)

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      3. saby

        Oh I have a story about this! Sorry for slightly off-topic but it is work boundary related.

        When my cousin was finishing up her undergrad and applying for grad school, her boyfriend decided to propose. (Which is a bit young to be married where we are, but they’d been living together for a year or so.) So he asked her father’s permission, and the father (my uncle) was like “um… you know, that’s really a question for her… she’s a grown-up… but you know, we like you and all that, if she wants to marry you we’d be happy to have you join the family.”

        So the boyfriend suggested they go away for a long weekend. She had two part-time jobs so she made sure she wasn’t scheduled for any shifts the three days they were supposed to be gone. And then, behind her back (!!!), he called her managers (!!!) and asked them to give her three extra days without shifts (!!!) because he’s planning to propose and secretly extending the trip as a surprise!

        Anyway, she said yes, and the story filtered through the family with various degrees of “he did WHAT now?”

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        1. Marillenbaum

          NOPE. Nope. I’m going to saddle up my nopetopus and nope the nope out of here. You are NOT talking to my boss. You are not arranging my work schedule. There is no surprise so important to deal with my professional life behind my back.

          Reply
          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

            “I’m going to saddle up my nopetopus and nope the nope out of here”

            This is amazing. I’m going to have to steal it!

            Reply
          2. saby

            Right? That was my gut reaction. Also, I supervise part-time workers who are undergrad and grad students, if one of their SOs contacted me to ask for extended time off for a marriage proposal I would shut that down so fast. NO, if my employee wants more time off they have to talk to me themselves, and also, dude, are you really sure that’s going to work out?

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        2. SSS

          He took away her scheduled shift?? Was he planning to pay her the money that she was going to lose when he pulled that stunt? You can’t pay bills on a marriage proposal.

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      4. Zip Silver

        It’s a strange thing to ask a boss (extremely strange), but in my part of the world, permission and tradition is still expected of young men.

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        1. VroomVroom

          Same. I live in the South, and down here it’s seen as a sweet thing to ask for a woman’s father’s blessing. When my husband asked my dad, he already had the ring and he already had the plan and everything (and we already lived together, and I knew that the proposal was imminent). Basically, it was just a courtesy so that my dad knew it was happening before it officially did, and on what date. They went out for a beer, had some nachos, and my husband told my dad how much he loved me and was excited to be part of the family. Not sure there was a permission granted or not, officially, but it was just sort of a Nice Thing To Do.

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          1. Violet

            I think there’s a difference between meeting with the girlfriend’s family to discuss that you hope to marry their daughter and you are excited to be part of their family – pretty much just keeping them in the loop – versus asking for permission.

            Especially if the girlfriend knows and agrees that the relationship is headed toward marriage and isn’t just waiting on the family’s approval.

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      5. MashaKasha

        Seconding gingerblue’s comment. I’m almost thinking that the employee needs to know that this has happened. I don’t think she’s on board with this, because her bf has sworn OP to secrecy, so she has no idea what’s going on! Not saying that it’s the OP’s responsibility to tell her, and no idea how this can possibly be communicated to her, but… if it were me, I’d want to somehow find out.

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        1. DArcy

          I think it *is* the OP’s responsibility to tell her; after all, no one else is in a position to do so.

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      6. Marillenbaum

        Yeah, IF we’re doing the “ask family for permission”, why not ask THE WOMAN WHO RAISED HER?
        ….Oh, right, it’s because to this doofus, women don’t count as the head of the household.

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      7. The Final Pam

        Thiiis. My Dad knows that if I was ever dating someone that asked his permission that he should turn that person down because that person clearly doesn’t know me. I really hate that custom.

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        1. Terrible sleeper here

          Both of my parents would have been offended! My mother would have hit the roof if some boy did that.

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      8. EvanMax

        My wife made it clear to me that I was to ask her father before proposing to her, not because she is property or it is his decision, but because she loves her father and wanted to give him that moment. She has two older half-sisters, and she doesn’t believe that either of their husbands asked her father, so she viewed this as his last chance to be asked.

        I was actually pretty uncomfortable with the whole notion myself, so I made a very deliberate wording choice, not to ask his permission to propose, but to inform him of my intent to propose and request his “blessing” in doing so (after all, two adults are free to do what they choose with or without the blessing of a third.)

        It was a meaningful moment for him, and it made my wife very happy when she found out that I gave him that honor. No one involved was any less of an autonomous independent adult for it.

        And honestly, while it sounds weird as all get-out to me, if it hadn’t been her father she wanted asked, but a boss or a teacher or a sports coach or some other important mentor or figure in her life, I feel like it would have been all the same. The odd part of the letter is the fact that the mentor/mentee relationship involved is clearly very one sided.

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    2. Sherm

      I can’t help wondering whether this was some big misunderstanding. Like, when the employee talked about how much Fergus meant to her, she meant Cousin Fergus, not Fergus the boss. If not, it’s either sadly weird or creepily weird, depending on who’s being weird.

      Regardless, I agree — politely reject and move on.

      Reply
      1. SystemsLady

        My husband and I know about five Johns, three of which are close to some degree and two of which are strictly professional connections, so I could see this happening.

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      2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

        A misunderstanding is entirely possible. DH and I both have brothers with the same name (though there’s never confusion because I don’t speak to my brother any more and his brother lives on the other side of the planet). And between us we know half a dozen people named “Matt.”

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    3. Chaordic One

      I suppose that it could the that the report has come to think of the OP as a father figure and discusses him in that context when away from work. Although, she seems to have been completely professional in her work relationship with the OP. It is very odd.

      If I were the OP I’d mention it to the report, making it clear that as her boss this is something she has to decide on her own. A part of me wonders if the report might not really want to get married just yet, or to this boyfriend. Still, she needs to deal with this on her own and the OP can’t really get involved in it.

      Reply
    4. Casuan

      Wait… what…?!?

      OP1, Alison’s reply is good & simple. Be as blunt as possible because this is so very bizarre & Not Done. And if you don’t put a stop to it soon, who knows to what other life events in which you’ll be asked to participate?

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    5. Midge

      The texts seemed strange to me, too! Especially the ones about the manager being a father figure. But even the ones with them discussing marriage. I got married this year, and I can tell you that while my husband and I had many conversations about marriage before getting engaged, it was never over text.

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        Right? Especially since they live together. Why would they bother texting about it if they can discuss it at home. This leads me to another thought…

        I was going along reading it like, well, okay maybe in some other cultures, but then I got to the part where they already live together. Why would you need permission to get married when you are already living together?

        I guess that doesn’t help OP decide how to handle this though. I say just follow Allison’s advice. I also agree with some others here who said to tell the employee about it and that you appreciate her as a great employee but you are not comfortable having input into her personal life. Let her decide how to handle her boyfriend whether or not she was aware of his request.

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        1. Falling Diphthong

          The permission to marry thing is a ritual, and so such details don’t enter into it. Like throwing the garter and bouquet, even though ritually stripping the couple as you carry them to the bed chamber is no longer a part of weddings.

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        2. MegaMoose, Esq.

          Eh, I did a lot of wedding stuff from work so there was some texting involved. That’s almost the only way we communicate during the day. Of all the weirdness here, that doesn’t strike me as a big deal.

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        3. Spoonie

          The boyfran travels a ton, so we text a lot because he gets bored on flights, in meetings, whatever. We’ve had all kinds of random conversations over messenger (Telegram, not actual text. Works with wifi). Honestly, this part was the least weird to me.

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      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Texting doesn’t creep me out, but the content of the texts seems unlikely/weird. I guess it just gave me a whiff of manipulation—i.e., either by making OP uncomfortable about his report, or, if the report actually does see OP as a father-figure, by coercing the report by getting OP’s “blessing.”

        As bizarre as this situation sounds, I think that if the report actually wanted him to ask her boss for permission, she would have given her boss a head’s up. The only exception is if OP had previously filled in other “dad” roles outside of work, which sounds like it didn’t happen. There’s nothing in the letter that screams abuse, but but the story made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and I think it’s because of what Lilo describes below.

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      3. MashaKasha

        I am picturing something along the lines of “if we were to get married, who would I ask for your hand?” – “oh i don’t know” – “no we’ve got to find a man. who? who? who?” – “oh okay okay, ask my boss” (goes back to what she was doing, forgets about the whole text exchange)

        Reply
    6. Scribbledsky

      I come from a pretty traditional culture where asking for permission wouldn’t be blinked at (although there’s a really funny story where my cousin’s now-husband asked her father for permission, and he panicked and told him to ask his Wife!), but this reads as weird. In fact, I would say it reads as almost chauvinistic. If this was someone I was close to, it would’ve raised red flags and caused me to question if there’s anything else this guy does that is blatantly patriarchic.

      Even if it didn’t occur to him to go to ask the mother for permission, blurring the line between the work and personal lives is just weird as hell. It also makes me question this guy’s judgement (and whether he’s ready for marriage!!).

      That being said, if I were the OP I’d just say that I can’t give my blessing because I don’t have that kind of relationship with her, and move on. Not your business.

      Reply
      1. KHB

        Chauvinistic, absolutely. It seems rooted in the idea that a woman must have a male owner at all times, so if a woman is unmarried and was raised by all women, just find the nearest man and declare that he must be the one with total authority over her life.

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        1. Van Wilder

          Yeah. If she did really send those texts, it’s sad that she was raised by all women but still thinks she needs a man to run her life.

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          1. Marillenbaum

            Seriously! I was mostly raised by women (my mom has nine sisters) and “you need a man” was definitely not the lesson I got from that experience. “Olive oil works in a pinch if you don’t have makeup remover”, sure. “Always hide the good Pop-Tarts”, totally. But not “Men are an essential part of family life”.

            Reply
      2. Allison

        Maybe he thinks that women’s “work lives” aren’t serious or career-focused the way men’s work lives are, and that a woman’s job is still just something she does to occupy her time and put a little money in her wallet before a man decides to marry her.

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    7. Lilo

      My dirty lens on the whole asking permission is that my sister-in-law’s abusive ex asked permission way way too early and my in laws gave it (whole other ball of wax there, my MIL is very traditional and wanted all her kids to marry young) so SIL felt coerced into getting engaged way way too soon into their relationship (it was seriously like 2 months).

      For LW this is just so very inappropriate and boundary violating that you are totally fine to decline here without any guilt. You don’t.know their relationship well enough to “assess” and give any kind of endorsement, nor should you.

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      1. Misc

        Yeah, it definitely feels like it could be quite manipulative. Presenting ‘so your boss gave us his blessing’ as a fait accompli puts quite a bit of pressure on her not to make it awkward by refusing (and sure, he could be innocently trying to work up courage by going through the magic ritual of How To Propose Properly, but it minimises the emotional risk to him is because it increases the pressure on her to complete the ritual by accepting. So playing along with it could make it much harder on her).

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    8. Falling Diphthong

      To my surprise, I find it quite heartrending. We remember certain teachers and bosses as huge forces, but we don’t usually remember individual students or employees who helped and guided us into the people we eventually became.

      (I’m not a fan of this tradition, and if the young couple are then she’s got a mom who can play the part of granting her blessing–there is no need to draft some male, any male. So super weird, but unexpectedly the details make me feel sympathetic rather than head shakey.)

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Except… this isn’t related to mentorship. It isn’t “I received an incredibly prestigious career milestone and want to honor Boss as a mentor.” It’s slotting a work relationship into a deeply personal one.

        Reply
        1. Marillenbaum

          Yeah, that’s the difference. When I worked in college admissions, I got a really lovely card from a young person I’d worked with who was going to be attending in the fall and had gotten a sizable scholarship to help fun her. She was a first-generation college student from a rural area in our state. It also came with strawberries from her family’s farm. I’ll admit, I cried buckets when I got that card and strawberries.

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        2. Chinook

          I agree it is “slotting a work relationship into a deeply personal one” but I do know sometimes that crossover is required, or was at one time. When DH and I got engaged, he was military and a couple of the older military wives I talked to asked if he had permission from the base commander to get married. I thought they were joking but they were serious because it once was a rule for those below a certain rank. One of them even still had the letter granting her husband permission to marry her.

          Then, when DH began with the RCMP, I learned that there was a similar rule (now no longer used, probably went out when they started hiring women) about them never hiring married men and only allowing them to marry after they finished so many years (so I would assume they would also require permission from their CO).

          So, if I were OP #1 and got that type of request from an employee’s boyfriend, my response would be to point out that a) really it is the employee’s job to ask for my permission, not theirs, and b) this job doesn’t require that type of permission be granted. Then I would be trying my best not to eask the employee if they said yes.

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    9. Sparky

      I’d like to know what would happen if the boss instead of politely removing himself from the whole thing refuses permission.

      OP1, tell this guy to ask his gf’s mother if they really want permission/a blessing.

      Reply
      1. MashaKasha

        I was thinking the same thing! I’d be tempted to say no just to see what happens. “Oh no, honey, the marriage is off, your boss said no”?

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    10. Em

      It is weird and I also bristle at the asking permission thing. However, I could also see this as the employee saying father figure but not meaning it as an intimate relationship. There are a couple men of my dad’s generation in groups that I volunteer with, and I would consider them father figures as in “guys who are like dads” rather than “guys who are MY substitute dad”. Sort of the way you might see someone as motherly without being your own mother.

      And for the fiancé — if he’s young enough, he might just be clueless. He got it into his head that he has to ask permission from the dad (and maybe he’s even thinking of it as “am I worthy enough?” rather than “could I please have her?”), and this just happened to click in his head.

      Reply
      1. Turquoise Cow

        I was thinking it came up in conversation in a different context, kind of like:

        BF: you spend a lot of time with your boss/talking about your boss. Should I be worried about something going on?

        Her: oh god, no! I don’t think of him like that. He’s older than me, and an authority figure…more like…a father than a romantic interest!!

        Reply
    11. Is it Friday Yet?

      I could be wrong, but I’d like to think that OP’s report just told her boyfriend that OP is the closest thing she has to a father figure, and her boyfriend interpreted that incorrectly as OP being a father figure in her life. It could be very true that OP IS the closest thing to a father figure, but it’s still very very far off from an ACTUAL father.

      Reply
    12. Anna

      This strikes me s something a really immature person would do, which then makes me wonder if they’re mature enough to be contemplating marriage at all.

      Reply
    13. HR Manager

      The first thing that came to my mind after reading OP1’s letter is that the employee has probably had a very tough life. She looks to OP1 as a father figure, and maybe even a mentor and doesn’t want to be rejected if she let’s him know how she views him. So, she maintains a professional demeanor while inside she has sold herself a story that he’s kind and thus a ‘father figure’. I think it’s pretty innocuous and shows more of the employee’s emotional vulnerability than anything else. OP should treat her with kindness but keep doing what he’s doing.

      Reply
    14. oranges & lemons

      For some reason, I find this kind of charming (from afar–run, OP!). I think the tradition of asking a woman’s father for permission to marry is sexist, but at this point it jumped the shark.

      Reply
  2. Mike C.

    I’m a bit confused about the concern over the failed courses. So long as they finally passed, it means they learned the material. So long as they know the material, everything should be fine.

    Also, every institution does things a little differently. Some are generous with grades, such that a C or even B is required to take advanced courses while others are so difficult that a D is sufficient. So perhaps, as Alison points out, raw GPAs shouldn’t be as much of a factor as they currently are.

    Reply
    1. Bookworm

      I assume the OP is worried the Fs are a reflection of poor work ethic and ingrained bad habits that might be hard to shake. Without knowing more, we can’t be sure what those Fs mean – I agree with Alison’s advice to check in with the employee and hear their side of it.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        I agree with it, too. Partly because grades come without context, as has been pointed out.

        I also think it’s important to notice that this person persevered and did the retakes until they passed. They didn’t give up. That’s not the same as failing and dropping out.

        Reply
      2. MadGrad

        In theory a failed class may reflect a poor work ethic, but in this case the person retook at least some of their classes – one multiple times! Classes aren’t cheap in time, effort or money, and if they managed to fight their way through failed classes into a good GPA without abandoning either the major (I know so many people who away from Bio degrees for this reason) or college in general, I’d say that shows major dedication! Sure, talk about it, but don’t write them off for struggling through it and succeeding!

        Reply
        1. SusanIvanova

          As someone who made enough bad grades to get kicked out, spent 2 years at junior college, and then went back to my original school and graduated – so much this. I could’ve gone to another school that wouldn’t have included those years in the GPA, but I can get kind of stubborn.

          My reason – until college, I never needed to study or ask teachers for help so the concepts of “study” and “office hours” were a mystery to me.

          Reply
          1. Lilo

            My spouse went through something similar – he came from a backwater public school and while he was a good student, the school hadn’t given him a strong enough background. Spending some time at community college helped him work it out. If there’s a clear before and after on the transcript, I would not see it as a red flag.

            Reply
            1. Relly

              So much this. I could cruise through school on auto pilot, so I did. It caught up to me in college, where I had to learn things like “how to study.”

              Reply
            2. SimonTheGreyWarden

              So did mine – he did a year at community college, withdrew with a 1.8 gpa, worked for 6 years or so, then went back and graduated on the Dean’s list with a 3.8, and his earlier grades were expunged from his records which was the policy at the time if you petitioned.

              Reply
            3. Falling Diphthong

              I think that’s part of the concern, as OP says the classes are distributed over the full time. It’s more of a red flag to me than “one semester was hell, suggesting an external cause” or “some poor grades in the early years, but then an upward trajectory” would be.

              I would weight the candidate’s experience and references over the transcript, but not shrug it off.

              Reply
              1. Lilo

                I agree that sporadic is more if a red flag. I wouldn’t write the candidate off but I would ask about it.

                Reply
            4. Sam

              A rough start isn’t fun, but a clear before and after isn’t a bad thing. That upward trajectory shows that you kept working at it and found solutions to the problems/challenges you faced. Good signs, I think!

              Reply
        2. Fishcakes

          Yes, I also find this impressive and an indication of a *good* work ethic and tenacity.

          (I had a terrible math education in grade school and was waaaay over my head once I got to university level math courses. It took me a couple of tries, some supplementary courses, and a tutor to finally get it and pass with good marks.)

          Reply
        3. Annabell

          Yeah, I think actually sticking to it and retaking the class shows, at the very least, perseverance. My grades in college were mostly A’s and B’s, but I failed the same required math class twice before finally passing it. I wasn’t being lazy or anything; math has just always been exceptionally hard for me.

          Reply
          1. FlibbertyG

            Yeah, but if I was hiring you as an accountant, that would give me a relevant piece of info. I dunno, I’m actually really interested in this discussion as I’ve always been on Team As Long As You Got the Degree Who Cares – I’ve never been asked for my transcripts and would be really weirded out if they were critiqued the way this guy’s apparently were. But now I find that, if this is the only data point on this guy’s likely performance, I would ask about it.

            Reply
      3. Blue

        I worked full time through college and literally calculated how many 0.0s I could get in a class and still pass, assuming I made 4.0s on everything else. I miscalculated once. And another course my professor gave me an incomplete instead of factoring in the 0.0, thinking she was doing me a favor.

        Reply
        1. Blue

          Also part of that calculation was graduating with at least a 3.0 GPA in case I wanted to have the option of applying to graduate school some day.

          Reply
      4. KHB

        I think they’re right to worry. I’ve got a problem coworker who’s proven himself almost incapable of meeting deadlines. He recently mentioned that he “didn’t do well in school.” I don’t know what “not well” means or to what extent his academic performance came up in the hiring process (he’s not a new graduate), but I can’t help but think that this isn’t a coincidence.

        With OP3’s candidate, I’m imagining a situation where they failed classes on the first try because they didn’t get the required papers/homework/lab reports turned in on time, but they were able to pass on the second (or third) try by using the partially completed work as a jumping-off point. Obviously, that says something different about their academic skills (and their mastery of the material) than if they’d passed all the classes on the first try.

        So I agree with the advice to ask the candidate what happened (and pay attention in their answer to any signs of excuse-making). If the candidate listed any professors as references (or maybe even if they didn’t?), maybe ask them for their side of the story too.

        Reply
        1. nofelix

          One really can’t assume to know why someone passed second/third time or how it reflects on their work ethic. And conversely passing first time isn’t necessarily better either; I passed my driving test faultless first time, doesn’t mean I’m a particularly good driver. As for using previous work as a ‘jumping off point’, that’s what every student does as they build knowledge throughout their learning. Testing their knowledge before they’re ready doesn’t mean their knowledge after they pass is suspect.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            The fact that there can be alternate explanations doesn’t mean the explanation you don’t like is utterly wrong. It’s entirely appropriate for the LW to inquire further to find out.

            Reply
            1. JB (not in Houston)

              Agreed that it’s appropriate to inquire, but I don’t think at this stage they should be *worried.* There are so many perfectly legitimate reasons for struggling in school that wouldn’t translate to struggling in the job that being worried about it at this stage (which is what nofelix was addressing–KHB’s comment that this was worrying) is a bit of an overreaction. I don’t think nofelix was saying the OP shouldn’t ask about, just that at this stage, it shouldn’t be considered anything more than something to ask about.

              Reply
              1. Anna

                Agreed. Curious, yes. Worried? No.

                Also, what sort of position is it that you would ask for transcripts rather than references from other positions? Is the person just starting out?

                Reply
                1. BF50

                  An entry level position where they are hiring new grads whose work experience is in retail and food service. Their references might be non-existent or irrelevant.

        2. aebhel

          That seems like a lot of supposition. Plenty of people who “didn’t do well in school” are perfectly good employees–and plenty of people who got stellar grades in school are appalling employees, tbh; I’ve been one of them. I basically snoozed through high school and college, got very good grades with a minimum of work, and crashed straight into a wall when I was required to function in a professional environment. I got better, but ‘smart enough that school is effortless’ often does not translate into ‘good employee’.

          Reply
          1. Marillenbaum

            That’s an important point. I’m a TA this year as part of my grad program, and I’m seeing firsthand how several students who didn’t have the best grades coming into the course have really proved themselves within it, precisely because they knew how to work. I was not that student in undergrad; school came easily to me, so I had terrible habits. It took leaving college and working to build the habits that have made me a good grad student; I’ve been trying to tell this to the ones who get discouraged and call themselves dumb that (1) you’re not dumb, the material is challenging, and (2) the skills you’re gaining from struggling with the material are making you a stronger student.

            Reply
          2. Darren

            I did terribly in my undergraduates (I was bored, felt I already knew anything and put in the bare minimum effort), but I did exceptionally well in my Masters degree, PhD, and subsequent work (to the point I got promoted twice in the last two years, the second time to a grade that only a handful of people at my company hold). You can’t really tell much from someone’s college results.

            Reply
        3. Parenthetically

          I think they’re right to ask. I don’t think they’re right to jump to the conclusion that they’ve been misled and consider not hiring a person completely based on university grades.

          There are lots of explanations for failing a few classes besides incompetence/laziness. It seems like you’re interpreting the comments of that nature as people telling OP3 to assume the best and hire based on that without asking questions; I see it as an encouragement to ask — encouraging OP3 that this isn’t necessarily a red flag for someone’s ability or work ethic, and it certainly isn’t deceptive, so don’t be afraid to continue the process.

          Your dirty lens is your coworker; mine is my husband who took 7 years to finish his degree including many failed classes, and has since been an absolutely exemplary employee who has received nothing but glowing reports from his employers. OP3 needs to consider both of those possibilities and not just decide not to hire the candidate assuming that he “can’t follow through or is willing to sweep negatives under the rug.”

          Reply
          1. KHB

            “It seems like you’re interpreting the comments of that nature as people telling OP3 to assume the best and hire based on that without asking questions”

            I don’t know why you think that, considering that the comment you replied to concludes with the specific recommendation to ask more questions.

            Reply
            1. Parenthetically

              Because you keep pushing back at people’s real-life examples hypotheticals and saying OP should still ask questions. That reads to me that you think they’re saying not to.

              Pardon me if I’ve got you wrong. That’s how your comments have been reading to me, so I wanted to offer a different take.

              Reply
              1. KHB

                The comments I’m pushing back at are the ones offering explanations that I think can already be ruled out just based on what OP3 said (e.g., people opining that maybe the candidate took a while to develop their study skills but eventually figured it out – but if that’s the case, they wouldn’t have continued failing classes throughout their college career) or explanations that actually aren’t all that sympathetic (e.g., getting low grades in college because they were bored).

                Some of the other real-life hypotheticals (e.g., an undiagnosed mental illness or learning disability) are things that I do think are plausible explanations for OP3’s candidate, and that’s why I think more questions are needed – to see if something like that might be going on. I apologize for any confusion caused by my failure to say that explicitly.

                Reply
                1. Darren

                  Don’t write off bored. That’s my excuse for my terrible undergraduate grades (I was young, sue me I grew up eventually), but as mentioned above I have done exceptionally well since then. You really shouldn’t worry so much about people’s school experiences what you are more concerned about are their behaviours now, and whether they have the skills you need (which the OP already established with their work simulations).

        4. Zillah

          It’s certainly possible that OP3’s candidate only passed because they used their previous work to supplement, but as someone who sometimes struggled in school due to a learning disability that wasn’t really being addressed, that actually wasn’t typically the scenario I saw or experienced. I agree that asking is a good idea, though I’m not sure a professor would give that information out without permission from the student.

          Reply
          1. Anna

            It’s also kind of dumb thing to drawn a line at. Who cares if you went back and retook the class and used work you had already done? Who in their right mind would throw away time and effort already spent and start from scratch? “I don’t like the color of that wall. All the rest are fine, but that wall bothers me. So I’m going to repaint everything.” Uh. No.

            Reply
        5. JS

          I don’t think failing classes should matter at all if the overall GPA was high. A 3.8 gpa with a few Fs is better than a 3.0 with none. People need to stop reading into college performance as how someone would preform on the job being in college, especially if you dont have many scholarships or parental help can be rough to work part-time,take classes, study and keep sane. It could be a correlation of work ethics but in general I would say college is a much more stressful time for a lot of young people then when they finally have a stable job post college in the workforce.

          Reply
      5. blackcat

        Yeah, this. I teach at the college level and, at least in my class, it’s really hard to get an A BUT it is also hard to get an F.

        Show up, do the work, and even if you just can’t do the science, you’ll get a D. Not good enough to proceed with certain majors, but good enough so that someone who decides to switch majors won’t need to retake it and the student can continue to make progress towards graduation. You have to work for an F. Students who get an F generally have no natural ability for the discipline AND just don’t do the work to try. If I think a student is going to get an F, I tell them in time with drop or withdraw. It is my understanding that this is a common approach at a wide range of colleges.

        A bunch of Cs or even Ds would not at all be red flags to me. But a bunch of Fs could mean the student was highly unreliable. It doesn’t necessarily mean that, but it could.

        (And, at my institution, they *average* the two grades for GPA. So a B and an F comes out to like a C- for GPA reasons.)

        Reply
        1. KDat

          You teach at the college level. As in at a well respected competitive university? Or college level courses at high school (or community college)?

          They are very different things. Subject matter, too makes a difference.

          Not all classes are difficult to fail.

          Reply
          1. blackcat

            Yes, a well respected competitive university. Generally ranked (by various metrics) in the top 25-40 out of doctoral-degree granting institutions. 80+% of the students I teach intend to be engineers or doctors.

            I would expect many more students to fail at the community college level if I taught exactly the same way. All of my students enter my classes able to do basic algebra and write coherent sentences (necessary for science). That would not be true at the CC level.

            Reply
            1. blackcat

              Also, just as a note, I went to a more elite school for my undergrad. Fs were basically unheard of, because professors/the dean of students/etc would intervene before it got to that point. Courses were also EXTREMELY difficult. I think this is relatively common at higher tier schools: both As and Fs are hard to come by.

              I took a summer school course at a well-respected public university once. I ended with a 99% (!!) average in the course. But many more students also failed. So more As (lower bar) & more Fs (less support for struggling students). It did also seem, though, that the professor took many of the steps I do to help students who might fail. In talking to peers who teach at a wide range of institutions, it does seem that the F often means “This student simply did not do the work to learn.” Whereas D means “This student has an unacceptable understanding to more forward, but they did try.”

              Repeated Fs that aren’t clustered in time do make me worry about a student’s ability to get work done/follow deadlines/etc. At a minimum, it makes me concerned that they do not follow up on feedback. A student who is at risk of failing generally knows that and (generally) could withdraw before getting an F (unless they were enrolled in the minimum number of courses to be eligible for aid).

              Bad grades clustered in time generally means the student had some sort of difficult time outside of school.

              So, yeah, I’d follow up with the applicant in question. I wouldn’t rule them out, but I’d want to hear more about the circumstances.

              Reply
              1. Mike C.

                I went to an elite science/engineering school and failing classes happened all the time. But where I went, a D meant “they learned enough to move onto the next course”.

                Reply
                1. blackcat

                  Huh, I think that’s relatively unusual–at every university myself and my husband have been at, generally a C- in core classes is needed to progress in certain majors.

                  A getting a D in the intro science class I teach means, “Retake it, or you get booted from the school of engineering.” Which, in practice, similar to an F in the system you describe–many students will retake the class. But it’s also a relatively large institution with plenty of options outside of engineering.

                  So in the system you’ve described, I’d be less worried about Fs on a transcript than coming from my institution.

                2. DArcy

                  I went to an elite science and engineering school, and yeah, we said “D is for Diploma” an awful lot. In addition, the school had a longstanding tradition of pass-fail only grades in the first two semesters because it cut down on freshmen freaking out over their first not-an-A ever.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                I went to an elite public university (like, one of the only U.S. public universities considered to be on par with the Ivies and their cousin institutions).

                It was very common for professors to fail students, and the average GPA was a 2.7. No one would bail you out. I think part of the underlying assumptions, here, are about a person’s individual collegiate experience, and they’re not always applicable even within the same school (e.g., our Engineering college was aggressive about failing people—and did it on purpose to “weed” people out, despite having no need to weed people out because all those kids were academically brilliant and hardworking).

                Reply
              3. Dankar

                My experiences have been similar. C+ or higher in core classes or you’re not permitted to proceed in your major; my university capped grade replacement at 2 grades per degree and didn’t permit students to retake a class more than 3 times.

                At my partner’s law university, though, it’s better to get an F than a D. Ds are considered passing, while Fs are allowed to retake the course. Any course that I’ve assisted in has been very, very difficult to outright fail, and students that did were often just not showing up for the class and refusing to do the work assigned to them.

                Reply
              4. Dankar

                Oh, shoot. Hit submit too soon:

                My point is that circumstances vary from school to school, and it makes sense to ask about the grades. Grade replacement isn’t deception, though! The applicant listed his/her GPA as it’s given by their university. Most people don’t even pull transcripts outside of academia, provided there are references and work experience on a resume.

                Reply
              5. Bwmn

                I think for every example there is about how failing isn’t common, there are going to be other stories about how failing is. I think that in addition to the differences from university to university – major to major can see this fluctuate which I think makes guessing the cause difficult.

                That being said, a few years ago I heard (and am open to being told that this not an entirely correct assessment) that for undergrad students who went to Cambridge (and I think possibly also Oxford) – two years or so after you graduate they award you a Masters degree in your field of study. I have absolutely no idea exactly how this works, but I know at the time it absolutely infuriated me. We work in a field that almost always demands a Masters degree (though no certification) and to hear that for all my time and effort to get an MA – this assumes that a Cambridge degree is of such a quality that two years of being alive warrants an MA.

                So…….while I do understand an HR wanting to check transcripts….I just say that for things like GPA and even degrees with no external certification…..there’s a lot of opportunity for schools to value themselves and their students in ways that may raise a lot of eyebrows.

                Reply
        2. Sam

          This was one of the big things I learned when TAing: generally speaking, it is *hard* to get an F. Like, don’t show up, don’t study, don’t turn anything in on time. You pretty much have to be completely disengaged with the course, and that’s a reflection of investment or work ethic, not ability. I was an admittedly hard grader, and I still only gave out a handful of Fs the entire time I was teaching. This was at a large state institution, by the way, where I was TAing gen ed survey courses.

          Reply
          1. JB (not in Houston)

            No. It *can* be a reflection of work ethic or investment, certainly, and so it’s appropriate for the OP to ask. But there are a number of other possible explanations that don’t reflect on investment or work ethic, and the OP should not be drawing any conclusions until she’s talked to the person.

            Reply
            1. Zillah

              I agree. It varies so widely from university to university, class to class, and person to person that I don’t think it’s appropriate to take our individual experiences and assume that any of them are universal – even just if we’re speaking generally. There are a million possible explanations, and the OP needs to just ask.

              Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Honestly, that’s not always true. There are a lot of legitimate and non-laziness/poor-work-ethic reasons for people to fail a class. And there are certainly some classes where you have to “try” to fail, but there are dozens more at hundreds of schools where you have no safety net, and any disturbance to your life/education can lead to failing a class.

            I think it’s ok for OP to ask follow-up questions in a neutral, non-judgmental tone. Something like, “So we noticed some variation on your transcript with respect to coursework that’s critical for this position. Can you tell me a little about what was happening there?”

            But I would caution against reading in or assuming anything about someone’s difficulty passing a class. There’s just way too much variation across institutions, majors/colleges, etc., for it to always be a proxy for lack of commitment/ethic/competence/ability.

            Reply
          3. many bells down

            I failed 3 classes one semester simply because the school lost my withdrawal forms (this was when things were still done on paper and not online, obviously). I needed to drop the classes because of work, but somewhere along the line my paperwork got lost and now I have an entire failed quarter on my transcript from that school.

            Reply
        3. academic escapee

          I’ve also taught at the college level, and while it is hard to get an F, we really don’t know what students are going through. I *really* wouldn’t endorse the assumption that Fs = “highly unreliable” and would definitely urge a potential employer to ask the job candidate before writing them off.

          Some students have disabilities but do not get adequate support, for various reasons – many of them not in the least the fault of the student. Some students come to college under-prepared for what’s expected/necessary to succeed – especially if they’re a first-generation college student, if their school district didn’t do much to prepare them, and/or if the college/university itself doesn’t help their first-year students make the transition. Some students are dealing with heavy, personal things that can get in the way of their academics. Some students are faced with trying to manage depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD.

          (I also know of way too many examples of undergraduates who experienced sexual assault at the hands of other students. Sometimes faculty members perpetuate sexual violence. Hopefully that’s not happening here. And I’m not saying it is, because of course I have no way of knowing, and there’s nothing in this letter that particularly suggests it is. BUT if there’s going to be a discussion of how one’s grades might be a reflection of one’s quality as a worker, I do think it’s important to keep in mind how prevalent sexual assault is in college and how much that can affect a student.)

          If the potential employer does reach out to the candidate to ask about those Fs, it probably doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that the reason(s) *may* be related to something like assault or depression – things that are really difficult to navigate in a professional dialogue, due to the stigma attached.

          Even if the Fs actually are a ‘reflection of their work ethic’, it’s not necessarily true at all that this person hasn’t learned since failing those courses. Especially given that they later re-took the courses and passed, and managed to get such a high GPA. To me, that’s a great sign and worthy of a lot of respect.

          Reply
      6. Working Mom

        I would actually argue the efforts to continue retake each failed class repeatedly shows a strong worth ethic. Its possible that the candidate did slack off initially in a variety of courses, but realized the need to pass them and buckled down and worked hard to pass them. It’s also entirely possible that the candidate (like me) is a slow-learner. Especially with certain subjects that are not my strong suit. In college, I used to attend additional sections of my hardest courses – I knew the particular topic was hard for me to learn, and I knew from personal experience that I needed additional exposure and time in order to learn the subject. I attended my professor’s class, and often arrived early attended the one before it to. Sometimes I needed to hear it all twice to really understand it.

        Maybe the candidate just has a hard time with certain subjects and it took a few tries!

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          Sure, maybe that is the case. Or maybe the candidate really is problematic. That’s why it’s worth investigating further.

          Not understanding these comments that because there could be circumstances where may not be a bad sign, it’s wrong for the OP to look into whether there are or aren’t issues.

          Reply
          1. Mike C.

            The problem is that many folks are reading way too much into the grades (especially moral values and work ethics) when the context is a job that doesn’t require a degree in the first place.

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            1. Marillenbaum

              I can see that. For me, I would definitely want to ask about them, just because with the information I have I’d want the candidate to contextualize those grades. Having said that, I firmly agree with Alison that the candidate was not misleading because that is how their institution calculates GPA.

              Reply
            2. neverjaunty

              This isn’t “dude got a C, clearly he lacks gumption” – this is a pattern of actually failing classes and throughout his acamedic work. I don’t see anybody telling the OP to run for the hills.

              Reply
            3. FlibbertyG

              I’m trying to think of a time an employer even asked for my transcript, and then trying to imaging responding to a question about my actual performance on the contents thereof. In general I think it’s a professional norm that the piece of paper saying you graduated is sufficient. HOWEVER, I’m willing to believe this is an exception because the applicant is brand new with no work experience and the specifics of the job somehow relate very closely to the coursework in a way I’m unfamiliar with. I have an office job and a non-technical degree; it might be different for engineers or lawyers or something?

              Reply
          2. Anna

            I think also there’s the idea of ONLY looking at the Fs as evidence when they aren’t the bulk of the grades and they aren’t even the only time the person took the classes. If you’re going to say the Fs mean something, but ignore the rest of the information, then you’re probably going to lead yourself to an incorrect conclusion. Ask about the grades, but don’t put more weight on them than any of the other grades.

            Reply
        2. SystemsLady

          My brother failed out of his first college and was recommended to see a counselor after failing the first semester at his second (if found you have a learning disability they will let you move forward with the caveat that you have to succeed following treatment). There he eventually finally found out he had ADHD and got treatment. He’s getting high grades now.

          So yeah, maybe it’s something like that, which is why I’d recommend asking. Could be either extreme.

          Reply
      7. Chinook

        Sure, an F can mean a poor work ethic or ingrained bad habits, but someone who goes back and redoes the course also shows a willingness to learn from their mistakes/bad choices. There is something inherently humbling about having to redo something that you failed because you screwed up. Personally, I would much rather work with someone whose GPA included failed courses that they retook and passed with flying colours then someone who always got perfect grades – the latter has probably rarely had to overcome hard obstacles but the former knows how to look defeat in the face and keep going.

        Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I agree. Especially because a college degree is not required for the job, and because the applicant didn’t lie about how it was calculated.

      I think OP might be using the failed classes as a bad proxy for capability. If that’s the case, then I would suggest giving folks a simulation writing exercise or other discrete staff.

      Reply
      1. KHB

        But a simulation exercise can’t test for everything. If the core problem is time management – say, the ability to complete a major assignment or project by a deadline that’s three weeks out – that’s not going to show up in a short test that takes an hour (or a weekend, at most) to complete.

        I agree that the candidate didn’t lie, because they reported their GPA the way the school calculates it. But now that OP3 knows that there’s more to the story, it’s very reasonable to wonder what’s behind the long string of failed classes.

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          But even if there were past problems, the fact that later classes had better grades should show that any issues had been resolved.

          Reply
          1. KHB

            I don’t think we can conclude that. If the failing grades had been confined to the first year or two, I agree that that would be a sign of an initial issue that had been resolved. But OP3 says that they’re spread out across the candidate’s whole college career. That suggests that the candidate never did learn how to reliably pass a class on the first try, and it’s worth doing some more digging to find out why.

            Reply
        2. Tuckerman

          The fact that the candidate retook the classes and passed makes me think that while it could be a time management issue, there was probably something else going on. The candidate was able to manage time effectively enough to pass the classes later, and maintain an overall high GPA.
          I excel at work and did great in grad school, but I had several Fs on my undergrad transcripts. I didn’t have access to affordable healthcare (back in the day when pre-existing conditions barred you from insurance). I was trying to minimize student debt by working, and that was difficult to manage (certainly more difficult than just working full time). Finally I just dropped out (for good, I thought). But then I got a job at a University where I had really good health insurance, was able to get surgery and other healthcare I needed, and they gave me free tuition to finish my undergrad degree and go to grad school. My colleagues were also very supportive and encouraging. I was finally in a situation where I could excel, and I did.
          One other note. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example, who went to underfunded schools, may need some time to develop the skills to succeed in college, that many students would have gained in high school.

          Reply
          1. aebhel

            Your last point is a very good one. IME, a lot of the skills that college students are expected to have coming in (and therefore are not taught at the college level) are not something that kids who went to underfunded schools learned, and the curve there can be steep.

            If it was a time management problem, it would seem to be resolved; the candidate did pass the classes at a later date with good grades.

            Reply
            1. Marillenbaum

              This is such an important point. I know my undergrad alma mater had a pretty good pathway program designed to support first-generation college students, but that didn’t necessarily help students who had gone to underfunded schools.

              Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            It could have been time management, or load management, tbh. But I think your story is an important and legit reminder that there are qualities and traits that hardworking students have that are independent of their GPA performance. And it doesn’t make sense to penalize them based on our perception of what a “successful student” looks like.

            Reply
          3. Meg Murry

            Yes, I was wondering if this was the situation as well. Pre-ACA, I had to be a full time student (and continue to be a full-time student) in order to stay on my father’s health insurance. If I dropped below full-time student status for more than one semester, I was kicked off the health insurance and not allowed back on, period, and I had a pre-existing condition that made getting private health insurance pretty much impossible.

            I could absolutely see someone desperately trying to maintain full time student status by enrolling for a full load but then failing one or two courses a semester, because they never intended to keep up with more than 2 or 3 classes instead of the 4 that was considered full time. Especially if the student was working full-time or nearly full-time at the same time as they were enrolled in school.

            I could also see this being a case of an overly optimistic student who tried to enroll in 5 or 6 classes every semester and then got overwhelmed and gave up on one or two of them. If the student was passing what would be considered a “full time” load almost every semester, I’d be less concerned than if they only passed 2-3 classes each semester for most of their college career.

            Given the fact that the in major GPA was 3.8 after dropping off all the failed classes, that implies that the student recovered from failing the classes to then go on to get mostly As with only a few Bs. That would imply to me that the person really did come out of the situation with a good grasp on the material, as long as it isn’t a school with rampant grade inflation – this doesn’t seem like a case of someone just barely squeaking by.

            Count me for a another +1 on the “ask the person about it to make sure this isn’t going to be an ongoing problem, and check their references really well but don’t write them off for it yet.”

            Reply
        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I think you’re attributing way too much to grades. Grades can sometimes proxy for how hard a person worked or their ability. But in many cases that’s just not true.

          Here’s a non-exhaustive list of reasons why a person who has a good work ethic, is diligent, prioritizes their coursework, and has the ability to succeed may struggle to pass their classes on the first go: the person lacks social support or tutoring services in the transition from high school to college; the person is first in their family to attend college and has not had access to or developed norms regarding how college works; the person is a survivor of trauma (see, e.g., campus rape) and is struggling to obtain treatment while also trying to pass their classes; the person is in a department with a culture of adopting curves for the specific purpose of failing a certain percentage of the class; the person had medical or other health concerns, but could not withdraw because they would lose their health insurance or financial aid.

          And many of the things I’ve listed, above, could easily last over one semester or even over retakes of a class. OP should ask non-judgmental questions. But OP should not assume anything from a transcript, alone.

          Reply
      2. kittymommy

        I noticed that too. Asking for transcripts, and then judging harshly when they’re given, for a job that doesn’t even require the degree seems pretty crappy.

        Reply
        1. KHB

          The letter doesn’t say that the job doesn’t require a degree – it says that the job doesn’t require a degree in that major. It may still require a degree in general.

          Reply
          1. FlibbertyG

            Yeah but to then critique performance on individual classes that is “not a requirement for their position”? This is outside the norm to me. I’m not saying you can’t ask, but – is this hiring manager neurotic in other ways … and maybe be prepared for them to be kind of snippy if you ask, as I would be.

            Reply
    3. paul

      as someone debating going back for at least an associates, that letter was like a kick to the nuts, I have to be honest.

      Oh, you eventually go a degree but had a hard time? We don’t want you!

      uuuugh.

      Reply
      1. Zombii

        Me too. I’m in online school and just finished retaking the 3 courses I failed at the start (the short explanation is I have an immune disorder and I got really, really sick). My school replaces the failing grade with the pass grade, so my GPA isn’t total suck but those 3 failed courses will always be on my transcript.

        After taking on the debt (or expense, if it was paid outright somehow) to get a degree, I’d hate to have those failures get me rejected without comment. All courses aren’t easy for everyone, and context matters.

        Reply
        1. paul

          My short explanation is I’m not a smart man and math is confusing as hell :/

          Want me to gut and clean a rabbit or build a fire or show how to break some ribs? I can do that. Want me to work with a client to get them to be more or less functional adults? Or run tables in Excel? Or build a PC? or work with a client even if I don’t like them? Sure, can do?

          Want me me do math with letters? I need an open book and a few fingers of whiskey to calm down before that’ll happen successfully.

          Reply
          1. No, please

            This is me. I’m great until it’s algebra time. I’d hate to have to take any math and it’s kept me from going back to school. Maybe this is the case for OP’s employee?

            Reply
            1. Relly

              Don’t let it keep you from going back, if you really want to! Find a good tutor who can make it non-scary enough to be survivable. A number of times, when students have math issues, it boils down to”I don’t understand any of this, why are we waving the magic stick around, I’m going to fake along and hope it works out” — so finding someone who can help you make sense of it might make all the difference in the world.

              (Disclaimer: I’m a math tutor, and therefore biased)

              Reply
            2. Temperance

              I always thought I was bad at math until college. I did 8th grade math in college, and got an A.

              I had a horrible teacher – twice – in high school, and between that and my parents making me sit at the table for hours with my dad … I became avoidant.

              Reply
              1. Blue Anne

                Yep. I always thought I was bad at math because my parents told me everyone in our family was bad at math. So I didn’t concentrate on math classes at all and my bad grades were written off as “the Blue Family Math Curse”. (Even when I had gotten a bad grade in an *advanced* math class I’d been bumped up to because I was knitting through the normal class and still doing okay.)

                Started doing some math at my job out of college and it turns out I’m really good at it if I’m interested and applying it. Now I’m an accountant.

                The way you perceive your own skills is really self-fulfilling.

                Reply
        2. AcademiaNut

          The vast majority of jobs don’t ask for transcripts, so it’s unlikely to crop up. I work in academia, and the last time I had to produce a transcript was for scholarship applications in grad school (although I have had to produce my physical PhD certificate for a work visa).

          I’ve reviewed applications for more academic positions, where we do look at transcripts in depth (typically summer student programs or graduate student applications). Even then, I look at patterns. Failed a few course at the beginning, but good grades afterwards? I’ll assume they had a rocky start but figure things out. Sudden nose dive but later good grades? I’ll assume life stuff happened. Both of those would be more plusses than anything else. One or two low grades but generally good? Probably a bad day on the exam.

          Low grades throughout the degree would be a problem. So would steadily decreasing grades through the degree, as that could be the sign of someone who has trouble mastering more advanced material. Erratic grades would also be problematic (ie, they get As in some things and Cs and Ds in others, scattered throughout the degree). That tends to crop up with someone who only works on stuff that they like, or someone who has difficulty with certain types of material.

          Reply
          1. Anon for this

            I agree with you. I work with college students, and I find failing courses regularly (and especially repeatedly) to be a concerning sign. If nothing else, it usually indicates that they have a problem asking questions or seeking aid when it’s needed. Because as you noted, if it’s an adjustment problem, they usually figure that out and grades improve over time. If the problem persists, it suggests they’re not figuring out better strategies.

            Relatedly, I’ve found that if a student doesn’t perform better in major courses than in their cumulative coursework, they’re usually in a major that isn’t a good fit for their strengths.

            Reply
          2. blackcat

            +1

            A semester of all Fs is less concerning to me than 4 or 5 Fs spread throughout the last two years. (And Fs in the first year or two don’t matter, I don’t think). The first indicates that “well, life happens” and the student had a bad go of things. But taking a particular class three or four times before passing–particularly if that class is at all relevant to the field the student is aiming to work in–is much more concerning.

            Reply
        1. Fictional Butt

          Why, though? This is kind of what’s confusing me. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that employers want someone who has a degree AND consistently performed well in school. Sure, there are all sorts of totally excusable reasons why someone would have struggled, and employers should take that into account. But I kind of see this as equivalent to a good candidate who has a mediocre reference from a previous job. It doesn’t mean they’ll be bad at the current job, but it’s not something you should just ignore.

          Reply
          1. FlibbertyG

            FWIW, to me this level of scrutiny is outside professional norms, and I would be kind of offended to have my academic transcripts critiqued. Maybe this varies by field.

            Reply
      2. Kalamet

        Yeah, same. I did well in school but my husband has failed out of a couple of bachelor’s programs. He wants to go back but keeps convincing himself either a) he’s not good enough or b) everyone will judge him for screwing up two years anyway. He WAS just lazy and disorganized as a 19-20 year old, no good excuses, but people mature. You shouldn’t be punished for mistakes forever.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          If he does go back, it’s entirely possible he will now be one of the “grey-haired curve-wreckers.” Because such people are not messing around; they have the life skills to organize themselves now and they are in the classroom for very explicit reasons that involved giving up other rewarding things.

          Reply
          1. Sam

            “non-traditional” students are rare at my current university, which is a shame, because they were some of the best students to work with at previous jobs. In addition to the life skills they’ve picked up, they typically had a very clear sense of purpose which kept them very motivated and focused. Most of their 18-20 year old classmates flounder to some degree as they figure out what they’re doing in life (which, to be clear, is totally fine and normal for students are their age! But it does present its own set of challenges when working them.)

            Reply
          2. Amadeo

            Yes, I became this. I did NOT do well when I was 18-19 and flunked straight the heck out of the really great university my high ACT score got me into. I was one of the ones that could coast through high school and so had trouble with the concept of ‘study’ and ‘office hours’ like someone said above. I did manage to get an associates at the age I would have graduated a 4 year university and was a vet tech for a while, then went back at closer to 30. I was that curve wrecker by then. I didn’t have time to arse around anymore. And I took classes while employed as staff at the university I graduated with my first bachelors from. A young man in my Java programming class who chose a seat next to me every day told me he was getting an A in the class because of me.

            Honestly none of the professors I took courses from graded on a curve at that point (that I *knew* of), but I would not have been appreciated by the other students if they had.

            Reply
          3. Anna

            For reals. Even though when I went back to college I was in my mid-20s, I was still considered non-traditional, but man. We all knew the people who had put college off for life reasons and they were not messing around. There were a group of them at my school. They were all women in their 40s, they used wheelie carts of some sort for book bags and they were Not Interested In Your Bullshit.

            Reply
        2. Red Reader

          I flunked out of college three times – like literally, 0.7 GPAs – and on take four, when I finally found what I actually wanted to do instead of going to college because That’s What You Do, magna cum laude. The difference is amazing.

          Reply
          1. Sam

            YES! The students who I watch struggle in class after class are usually studying something they’re either not good at or don’t care about and they’re doing it because they think they should or because their parents are pushing it. Most of them eventually let go of those expectations and find something for their own reasons, and the difference really is remarkable. I always cheer internally when one of them tells me they’ve decided not to major in the thing that has been making them absolutely miserable.

            Reply
            1. Marillenbaum

              This was one of my favorite conversations with a student. I was interviewing him for admission, and mentioned that his application said he wanted to study physics–cool, we have physics scholarships! But he leans in and says, “Can I tell you something? My parents want me to study physics but I don’t want to do that.” It turns out, he wanted to be a screenwriter, and we had an amazing conversation about science fiction and adapting novels to the screen. He ended up majoring in English with minors in Creative Writing and…Physics.

              Reply
          2. Oryx

            For a long, long time my parents still made fun of me for having a poor high-school GPA and then leaving grad school with a 4.0. High school was boring and unchallenging and undergrad was pretty much the same but going to grad school and getting a degree in something I really, really wanted to do was life altering in terms of my motivation for academics.

            Reply
        3. Marillenbaum

          I used to work in college admissions, and this is honestly less of a deal-breaker than he might think. SO MANY people have issues when they start college, and for some of them, that means leaving and dealing with some stuff and coming back later in life. Especially since it’s been what sounds like more than five years, it’s probably not going to be a huge issue.

          Reply
      3. Falling Diphthong

        On the other hand, I am glad that there is starting to be some push back to the idea that if you just get some sort of college degree, then maybe some post grad degrees, the average outcome (more lifetime earning power) must apply to you.

        On average, dishwashers with a college degree earn more than those with only a high school degree, who earn more than those who dropped out of high school. You shouldn’t take on educational debt on the theory that it is guaranteed to pay for itself in your individual case. Going back to school for either personal satisfaction or with a specific career path in mind, those make sense. (I know people who took on educational and house debt on the theory that they had vaguely heard it was the financially prudent thing you were supposed to do and you made money in the end via reasons. I winced. It hasn’t worked out.)

        Reply
      4. JacqOfAllTrades

        Don’t let it discourage you. It took me 5 years to get an AA (and I failed several classes, including basic accounting) because I flaked my first year. It took me 24 years to get my BS – in Accounting – with a few more Fs early on because I had a horrific accident and extended recovery and did not drop my classes in time. I graduated Magna Cum Laude last year. Too late for any career benefits, but at that point, I was just doing it for me. Keep going!

        Reply
      5. Marillenbaum

        Go for it! Seriously. I used to work in higher ed, so I will freely admit I’m always a cheerleader for people going back for a degree, but I don’t think most places are like this. Even going back to work at my old college after graduating they didn’t ask about my GPA–and it was their institution! And ultimately, being able to effectively tell the story of yourself to an employer is the key thing; in your case, you’re talking about persistence, skill-building, and the maturity to put yourself in a position to succeed when you decided to do that degree. Those are all really good things! I, for one, am rooting for you.

        Reply
      6. Koko

        I like to think that your odds aren’t so bad most places. Real work experience is just so, so much better information than school performance, that I would hope even a year of solid work history would make any transcript history information close to irrelevant.

        We look at school performance in hiring when there isn’t any real work experience or accomplishments to go on. We look at school performance hoping it will help predict work aptitude. But work experience is a much better predictor of work aptitude. If someone had a rocky academic career but had been working in an office for a year, had 1 or 2 very strong accomplishments in the job that showcased positive traits or abilities, and had a positive recommendation from a senior colleague or manager, what it looks like to me is, “Oh, this person had trouble in school for whatever reason, but it clearly hasn’t held them back from excelling in the workplace.” And it’s the latter that I really care about when I’m hiring.

        Reply
    4. Colette

      It sounds like this was more than one class, and it took up to four attempts to pass some of them.

      There can be a lot of explanations for that – illness, family issues, not doing the work, learning disability, addiction issues, poor time management, etc. Some of those are an issue in the workplace, and others aren’t. But I’d guess some people on those classes passed the first time, while it took the OP as many as four attempts.

      If i were going to hire someone who takes four times as long to learn new material or to complete work, I’d want to know that going in.

      It’s possible the candidate will be a great employee. It’s also possible she’ll be someone who struggles to learn and washes out after a month. It’s reasonable to try to understand which is more likely.

      Reply
      1. Enginerd

        As an academic advisor at a university, I want to reiterate that they did not lie about their GPA. We often encourage students to retake classes to have the F’s, even if they are option courses, so that they don’t count towards GPA. There are so many reasons that people fail courses, whether its a terrible prof or family events, or just not doing well with a transition or not understanding the work required. If they’ve eventually passed them, you have to assume that they’ve learned the material, and more often than not, I’ve found that they have found what ways of studying and working work best for them.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          I don’t think it’s wrong to be concerned, or to ask what happened. It’s not just about whether they eventually learned the material, it’s about understanding how what happened in school relates to the workplace. If she’d failed two courses once, that would be less of a concern to me than this situation where it sounds like she failed multiple courses, and at least one took four attempts to pass.

          I’m not suggesting that this should be automatically disqualifying, just that it’s reasonable to want more information.

          Reply
          1. Lablizard

            The school allows 4 attempts. The LW never mentioned how many times the candidate took any class.

            Reply
          2. Courtney W

            While I see your point, this can lead to an incredibly awkward situation depending on what caused the failing grades. I wrote in to Alison recently asking what to say when I’m inevitably asked about a year of bad grades on my transcript, and pretty much everyone agrees to just cite a vague “family crisis” type of situation. With the level of skepticism I’m reading in some comments on this post, it seems like that wouldn’t be enough for people. But there are some situations which can cause bad grades that are totally inappropriate to discuss in the workplace. So how much information are you (and all the other comments encouraging asking for more information) looking for?

            Reply
            1. MegaMoose, Esq.

              At least what I’m seeing is that most people are happy with an easily understood narrative: this year my grades suffered because of a family crisis is totally understandable. I think the truffle is more that the OP’s situation doesn’t have an easy narrative (yet?).

              Reply
              1. neverjaunty

                Right. A lot of people seem to be saying that it’s horrible of the OP to even consider whether multiple Fs indicate a problem, which is ridiculous.

                Reply
                1. JB (not in Houston)

                  I’m not seeing that. Most people don’t seem to have a problem with asking about it, they have the problem with the assumptions others are making about what the grades probably mean.

                1. Anna

                  I think it works!

                  “I get what you’re saying about the teapot spout. The truffle is the part won’t bend that way to make it.”

            2. Colette

              I’d go with high level as well as what you learned, if applicable.

              “I was working full time and didn’t give enough time to my classes. I learned that I can only do two classes at once while working those hours.”
              “I was dealing with a family crisis and my schoolwork suffered.”
              “I was struggling with some health issues that have since been resolved.”

              Bad answers:
              “The prof hated me.”
              “That class was boring/too early in the morning”
              “I was busy with Volunteer Event, which is really important to me, and the prof wouldn’t give me an extension.”

              Reply
        2. Karyn

          This. Most part-time law students have four years rather than three, and I ended up doing five, because I transferred schools and some of my grades didn’t transfer (a couple because the grading scale at my old school was 1-100 and new school was 4.0 based, so the C level at Old School was different than C level at New School).

          But my entire second year at Old School, I was dealing with a horribly stressful fulltime job, plus going through a divorce, and I had undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I ended up getting a C in Civil Procedure, and an F in Property. Those didn’t transfer, so I had to retake them at my new school. I ended up with a B in Civil Procedure and a C in Property at my new school. Personal issues can definitely impact how you’re doing in school, and once my issues were resolved, I did at least marginally better in all my classes across the board (although I am studying for the bar a few years out of law school now, and I STILL do not understand Property one little bit).

          Reply
        3. Sam

          This is interesting to me, because I’ve also worked as an advisor and currently work elsewhere in higher ed. If students are failing things throughout their college experience, I find the problem is precisely that they’re *not* finding better or smarter ways to work. And that is quite concerning in and of itself. This is, of course, different from starting roughly, having a bad term, etc.

          Reply
      2. paul

        To me it comes down to how relevant they are to the field; like in my example, even if I did manage to pass algebra, I probably shouldn’t be working in a field that involves a lot of math. But in a field where you don’t go pass PEMDAS? Eh.

        Reply
      3. Hlyssande

        It can also be that some professors are actually terrible and they got a better one who taught in line with their learning style/was actually willing to accommodate things/etc the second time around. I know a few people who flunked a class the first time around that way, but passed the second with flying colors if they were lucky enough to get a different professor.

        Reply
    5. sssssssssss

      Dear LW about the failed courses: do you want someone with a high GPA who thinks everything comes effortlessly and then flounders at the first real challenge? Or someone who stood up after being knocked down (failed) and kept fighting until he got it done, persevered, found a way to complete the challenge?

      Lots of people give up after failing; this guy didn’t.

      Reply
    6. Go Blue!

      In over 25 years in professional jobs at companies small and large, I’ve never been asked for my transcripts and only once been asked for proof that I have my degree.

      College is a time of discovery about yourself and the larger world – what grades you got are largely irrelevant. It is good to see better grades in the classes in your major, but otherwise I don’t see the big deal.

      Reply
    7. Thinking Outside the Boss

      I’m so tired of people focusing on GPAs. I don’t, but a lot of my fellow managers do. And it is a shame.

      I can tell you that on my team of 20, there are a handful of employees with exceptionally high GPAs from prestigious law schools that I would fire tomorrow if the civil service rules let me. And there are people who have a fair to middling GPA from lesser known law schools who are exceptionally bright, articulate, and their worth to our organization in no way compares to their GPA. They are fantastic employees!

      In fact, I finished 133 out of 212 people in my law school class. Yet I’m a manager in my organization and extremely successful. Grades and grades alone don’t amount to anything.

      I would gladly take a prospective employee who failed, fought, and then succeeded. That’s a work ethic you can’t teach. And how many times have all of us failed in part of our professional lives, learned from that mistake, and came back to kick some serious ass.

      Reply
    8. 2horseygirls

      So here’s a flipside for consideration:

      I received a certificate (not AAS or BS) in Advanced Equine Science with honors, and achieved straight As* with a 3.89/4 GPA. (*The one B I got was because I was honest with an instructor that my entire project was complete expect for classmate handouts, so could I present next week, knowing that she would drop me a grade? Could I have winged it, kept my eyes on the floor, and stood at least a 50/50 of not getting called on? Absolutely. But I was honest, and, well . . . . consequences).

      However, since getting my certificate (while working 40+ hours a week, and conducting cruelty and neglect investigations for another 10+ hours a week), it has been increasingly difficult to get hands-on, literal boots on the ground time with horses. Which is worth 100+ times what a grade is, in this particular field.

      So if you hired me on the basis of my grades/GPA alone, I would be good, but not as good as my instructor, who does not have one minute of classroom EqSci time, but has worked with horses for 16+ hours a day for the last 10 years.

      Just another perspective . . .

      Reply
  3. Bookworm

    Oh, question number 1 hurts my heart a bit. But I agree, the best thing to do here is to set a clear and compassionate boundary.

    Reply
    1. PatPat

      I agree. I think it’s very sad. The employee sounds young and confused and missing a father figure so she’s built the boss up into a relationship that isn’t real (if the boyfriend is representing things accurately). I don’t see it as nefarious or chauvinistic, just heartbreaking. The boss should let them down very gently.

      Reply
    2. No, please

      I don’t understand why they don’t ask her mom? If asking is important then it seems she’d be the one to ask. My mom walked me down the aisle because my dad is dead. She loved it.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        Yeah, this comes up in Miss Manners a lot. “Dear Miss Manners, my father is a deadbeat and both my grandfathers are dead. My mother is a superhuman champion who raised me and my nine siblings alone and put us all through college. I would like to be walked down the aisle. Should I hire a PI to find my dad?” No, silly, your mother should do the honors!

        Reply
          1. I before E

            I asked my mom to walk me as well as my dad, but she was too freaked out about doing something outside of the box to do it. I really wish she had!

            Reply
            1. SansaStark

              Ha – I thought my mom would be the same, but it turned out this was the only part of the ceremony from my husband’s Jewish faith that she liked! She enjoyed thinking she was the center of attention for those moments and I enjoyed having one thing she didn’t complain about.

              Reply
              1. Anon-mama

                Cosigning on the both parents walking me down the aisle. In fact, according to the Catholic rite, parents walking their children down is actually not the first preference. Top choice for what the entrance symbolizes is bride and groom entering together. Gasp! Neither DH note I wanted to do that, and FIL refused to play along, saying out didn’t make sense for man to walk with his parents side by side (but it would for a woman? Ugh). So to keep the peace, they walked slightly ahead, and both parents escorted me. There is also no language about “who gives who away. ” if a priest does that, he’s going way off book, at the request of couples who just want wedding done the way pop culture says it is. Um, no.

                Reply
                1. Emi.

                  We were lucky to be married by a self-professed “grumpy old priest” who wanted to do everything by the book, with no giving away.

                2. Hedgehog

                  So may peopl do not know this about the Catholic rite! I wanted to do that so badly, but I compromised and had my two parents walk me. My mom complained about it for months, but I could not stomach being “given away” by just my dad (because of the symbolism of it, not because of anything against my dad as a person).

            2. Marillenbaum

              My sister initially asked my mother to walk her down the aisle at her wedding (she was 23) and my mom said no, because she thought it would be too big an F. you to our (not particularly involved) father. For myself, if I eventually manage to club some poor soul over the head and drag him back to my cave, it’s mom or bust. I’m completely fine with hurting my father’s feelings, because he had too little respect for mine to earn the honor of being with me on my wedding day.

              Reply
          2. Aunt Vixen

            Uncle Vixen’s dad and my dad both died several years before we got married, so each of us was walked in by our respective moms. (The groom being brought in by his parents as well as the bride being brought in by hers is one of my favorite aspects of a Jewish wedding; you’re uniting families, not transferring custody of a young woman.)

            Had my father been alive to ask, and had Uncle Vixen asked him for permission to marry me, I am confident my father would have said something like “I like you and I’m glad you make my daughter happy, but this isn’t really my decision to make, now, is it.” There would not have been a question mark.

            Reply
      2. Temperance

        For various reasons, I have strong feelings about the patriarchal nature of being “given away”. I maintained through high school, and college, that I would never be “given away”, as if men owned me. I said this when I had no boyfriend, ever. I once offered to allow both parents to “escort” me, if they would explicitly not call it giving me away, and if my husband to be was also escorted by both parents. I got an earful about honoring my father, and respect … so neither of them did it. I don’t care.

        Reply
      3. NPO Queen

        It could also be culture. If my father weren’t around to walk me down the aisle, one of his brothers would do it. My mother would freak out at the thought of walking me down the aisle; I’m far more liberal and non-traditional than the both of them, but it wouldn’t be something I’d want to argue about.

        Reply
    3. Interviewer

      OP #3 – my company confirms graduation year and degree for most of our new hires. For only one subset of our population that has state-issued professional licensing, we get transcripts to confirm coursework and grades. If you really need that, too, by all means, continue to request the transcripts – but you’ve discovered he hasn’t lied about the degree or the GPA. Presumably he has the experience or the references to prove he can do the job.

      If that’s the case, and you still want to probe about the reasons for failing classes, go ahead. You’re going to hear his “lessons learned” success story, probably something involving a moment of enlightenment when he lost a huge chunk of college funding and he had to pick himself up & go it alone – I can already hear it now.

      I wouldn’t even question it. I’d just go ahead & hire that guy. Someone who has already learned a few hard lessons, that’s one I’d want on my team.

      Reply
  4. Seal

    #4 – Definitely ask to have your plaque fixed! I have an uncommon name that regularly gets misspelled and mispronounced, so I feel your pain. There’s no excuse for misspelling an employee’s name more than once and definitely not on an award.

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      Me too – until I chose to change my name when I got married. I find people with easy to spell names can sometimes just not think about this. But if it’s awkward, that’s not on you, OP. And if you don’t correct it, the next mistake could be even worse, like on a plane ticket that’s expensive to change.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        A friend has an easy to spell but unusual first name (think “Mabel”) and a long hard to spell last name. She always tried to get the school or employer to put her in as “MabelE@place” rather than “MErzhkharzstnkski@place” because she had a shot at getting her mail then.

        Reply
    2. Zombii

      If it’s multiple misspellings that are actually incorrect capitalization, I have to wonder if it’s something to do with the computer system company uses. Toxic ExJob used a system that couldn’t deal with apostrophes, accented letters, capitalization beyond the first letter or spaces in last names (nametag day for every training class was fun).

      Reply
      1. SusanIvanova

        I have a double first name – yes, it’s that way on my birth certificate – and a very long list of Ways You Cannot Make Assumptions About Names, No Really. If I have any say in the matter, any place I work will get that lecture and fix things.

        Reply
        1. Workaholic

          I have two first names separated by an apostrophe. My biggest hassles are banks and government entities. I typically only use the first half but “legal name here” gets the full thing.

          Reply
      2. overeducated

        I have a space in my last name and my university just insisted it couldn’t be dealt with, i would have to be known officially by half. I was fine with it for five years but I had a major fit about being told I wouldn’t be alphabetized correctly for graduation as a result. (Major fit meaning I went back and forth over email saying politely that it was not acceptable and my family traveling hundreds of miles would be expecting me to walk based on my actual name, not their limited computer system. Somehow they managed to figure it out for the program…)

        Reply
        1. the gold digger

          We tried to log into the Blue Cross account for Primo (not his real name) and could not get in. Their system truncates first names after X letters because nobody in this country has a first name that has 11 letters in it like “Bartholomew.”

          Reply
        2. PizzaDog

          I started spelling mine without the space – it infuriates my brother, who spells it with it. I just find it easier to deal with (and I like the little letter between two capital letters).

          Reply
      3. Kit

        My boss is convinced that there’s a capital R in the middle of my surname, even though she’s seen it typed properly dozens of times. Some people just get ideas in their heads. In my case I find it extra weird since we’re both French Canadian and it is overwhelmingly common for French Canadians to capitalize only the first letter in their surname (Dubois, not DuBois). I don’t worry about it day-to-day but I would want it fixed on a plaque.

        Reply
      4. Antilles

        +1
        If it’s happening over and over again, it’s almost certainly a reflection of some sort of computer limitations. Most people are (rightfully!) embarrassed about misspelling someone’s name once you mention it, so the fact that the office manager keeps making the same error means it’s probably some weird system glitch.

        Reply
        1. I before E

          My first name is not super common, but also not totally off the wall. It is, however, not spelled the way you traditionally spell it. I’ve been at my job for almost two years and at least twice a week someone misspells it. Often in email when it’s right there for them to see. It’s never been a problem on anything official at work (outside of work, yikes), people just can’t wrap their heads around it.

          Reply
          1. Whats In A Name

            This happens to me but vice versa. A lot.

            The most nightmarish was earlier this year when I was the feature story on the cover of a magazine and they misspelled my name on the cover and the inside title line of the story…… despite the fact that when I proofed it for the author my name was spelled correctly and all throughout the article it was spelled correctly even in print – they just changed it in those 2 locations.

            Not to mention my email address is FirstnameLastname@… and I write for the magazine so my name is spelled (correctly) in the contributor section as well as on my paychecks. And they send me emails all the time for stories.

            Reply
      5. Annie Moose

        Ahhh, that’s such a huge red flag. Any reasonably modern system will be capable of handling these things! If not, it’s a sign that the underlying way names are stored is wildly outdated, or at least that the people who built it didn’t put any thought into it. Either way, that’s a system I want no part in!

        (I fully confess that names are complicated; you have cultures where people aren’t referred to by their surnames (Iceland, Vietnam), you have cultures where surnames precede given names (China, Hungary), you have cultures with multiple surnames (Mexico, Brazil), you have cultures where people have no surnames at all (some people in Indonesia), etc. Supporting every possible variation of names around the world is legitimately difficult, and probably impossible.

        But if your target audience primarily has “Western-style” names, all you reasonably have to do is have given name/middle name/surname fields in your database, make them all VARCHAR(100) or so, and ensure you support double-byte characters. No problems with not having the right capitalization. No problems with diacritics. No problems with spaces or hyphens or punctuation in names. No problems with too-long or too-short names. There you go.)

        Reply
      6. Elsajeni

        Yeah, I’ve run into variations on this issue that seem to be computer system problems — if my name is, let’s say, McLeod, I might have to try Mcleod, Mc Leod, MCLeod, etc. before getting in. (Airlines and the federal government, the two types of website that I care MOST about correctly identifying me, are the biggest offenders for some reason.)

        Reply
    3. Lily in NYC

      I received an award at work and my name was misspelled on the framed certificate I received. I think it’s the best thing ever and have it displayed on a table near my desk. It also came with a crack in the glass. It is the perfect representation of our HR team’s “attention to detail” and I hope my dept.’s HR rep is embarrassed every time she walks by. She’s the same person who was personally offended last month when she found out that not all admins love secretary’s day. She complained to my boss because I didn’t attend our stupid party.

      Reply
    4. Hard to Spell

      My first and last name are both names that have several different common spellings, and my last name has an apostrophe and two capital letters. When someone spells it right on the first try, I consider it cause for celebration.

      In my pretty vast experience in this arena, people will be helpful and quick to correct the plaque. Please ask.

      Reply
      1. Annie Moose

        Heh, I’m in a similar boat, minus the apostrophe/capitalization–there’s a ton of different ways to spell my first name and last name, plus my surname is very similar to a woman’s first name. So even though my name is something like (for example) “Ashley Lindsy”, it gets written as everything from “Ashleigh Lindseigh” to “Ashlie Lindsey” to plain ol’ “Lindsay”. (the last–being called a mispronounced version of my last name as if it’s my first name–is exceptionally common in settings where my last name is written first, such as email address books and attendance lists.)

        Reply
    5. Venus Supreme

      Yes. As a person with a difficult last name to spell, this is something worth being a stick in the mud for. I’ve had my work e-mail spelled wrong, my last name on health insurance wrong… and I make damn sure my name is corrected!

      This is an important plaque — the least your company can do is ensure your name is spelled right.

      Reply
    6. JGray

      I agree ask to have it fixed. My last name is a very easy name but because it’s spelled the traditional American way not the European way people have a hard time with it. Whenever I have to give my name out- dr office, utility bill, email at work- I always spell it out since people automatically go to the other spelling. I also think that if its been an issue in the past and one has had to ask that it be fixed I would also at some point ask about a solution for that if the computer is being blamed. Not to disparage the office manager but hopefully that person hasn’t been making the same mistake with your name. If it’s a computer there is always a solution whether having an IT person look at it or call the vendor of the program.

      Reply
      1. Marillenbaum

        I have something similar. My name is fairly common in a variety of languages, but it’s spelled differently in most of them. When I lived in Austria, there was always an issue of “no, it’s with a C not a K…yes, I know that’s how y’all spell it, but my family are American and this is how it’s spelled on my passport. I’m sure you’ll live”.

        Reply
    7. justsomeone

      I wouldn’t say there’s no excuse -there’s human error involved. It sucks, but it happens, even when care is taken to try to be accurate.

      I do the ordering of awards for my company. It’s a lot of copy and pasting from company rosters into emails. I send my list of names/awards to the vendor, they send it to the etchers, the etchers send a proof to the vendor which gets forwarded to me which I then manually check against a company roster and either approve or make corrections to. Then the etchers etch and ship the awards. At any of those stages a name might be misspelled. Sometimes even though everything was 100% correct on the proof, the final etching is incorrect. Sometimes I accidentally miss that an “s” should have been a “z” in Gonzalez.

      It happens. BUT it’s no big deal to fix. If you name is spelled wrong, just email whomever is in charge of the awards and simply ask for a replacement. Odds are very good that the person who ordered the awards will go “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I’ll get you a new one ordered right away.” And you’ll get a new award.

      Reply
      1. Quickstepping Matilda

        At my old office, we had a similar system, except without the proof from etchers to vendor. So when we hired a new scientist named “Jezabel” (not her real name, but illustrative of the weird spelling of her real name), I asked the person who orders nameplates and business cards to order them for “Jezabel Smith.” She told me ok, and let me know that I’d misspelled the name in my email but that she would order them for Jezebel Smith. I wrote back and told her, no, it’s actually spelled Jezabel, not Jezebel. She sent in the order with it correctly spelled. Then the nameplate maker corrected it for her, and poor Jezabel still ended up with an incorrect nameplate on her first week in the office. But they made us another one for free as soon as we complained about it!

        Then there was the time that I pointed out to my thesis advisor that I had been working for him for six years, so maybe it was time for him to learn how to spell my last name. It’s not even difficult – it’s also the last name of a famous person that I bet every person on this board would recognize. But he insisted on spelling it the “German” way and putting a wayward D into it.

        Reply
    8. Cecelia

      OMG! OMG! I make plaques!
      Yes, ask for it to be corrected. For many traditional plaques, a piece of wood with engraved metal, we can just remove the incorrect plate, and replace it. Super simple.
      It’s not your fault that someone in your office can’t spell you name.

      Reply
    9. Tin Cormorant

      I received a few awards at my job years ago, back when they were still giving out framed plaques with a disc of our project on it to everyone on the team when we did particularly well.

      One plaque I received (which was for part 2 of a 3-part series) had my last name misspelled in a really stupidly common way that I had been dealing with since grade school. I informed my manager, they apologized and sent it back to be fixed. I got it back, it was still misspelled. I told them again, they sent it back again.

      I never got it back again by the time my contract ended that season, and nobody knew what happened to it. I’d probably be a lot more upset about this if I’d ever gotten a plaque for part 3, but they stopped giving out plaques by then.

      Reply
    10. nonegiven

      I made a lawyer’s secretary reprint a whole crap load of pages by overwriting a lower case with a capital letter in my name every time I saw it. She seemed put out. My husband was put out. He said, “What difference does it make?” I said, “One is my name, the other is not.” I wouldn’t have signed them without going through and correcting every one of them, either. Hey, you fix it or I will.

      Reply
    11. SSS

      I once received an ’employee of the quarter’ award and my first name was misspelled. I had worked there for several years in the same office with the people who do the awards. I pointed out to them that their attempt at telling me how important I am to them has an opposite effect if they can’t be bothered to learn my name.

      Reply
  5. zlionsfan

    Re #4: as someone with a last name that has multiple caps in it, I’ve had to do something very similar myself. In my case, what seemed to work was something along the lines of what Alison said: “Thanks for this! Just one quick note – my last name is actually spelled T-e-a-P-o-t, can we get that corrected?” People will generally apologize and do what they can to fix it, and to paraphrase advice from here and elsewhere, think of the awkwardness not being that you have to ask, but rather that someone else isn’t getting your name right! You’re just trying to help fix the problem by pointing it out rather than letting it go. (And if for some reason there is significant resistance to spelling your name correctly, that may tell you something as well.)

    Reply
  6. PepperVL

    There’s also another way to look at those Fs – that the person is someone who is willing to keep working at problems until they’re solved. A lot of people would give up if they kept failing classes (or at least switch to a completely different field of study), but this person recognized that they needed these classes for their chosen field and worked to pass them. That’s the opposite of not being able to follow through.

    Reply
    1. Chaordic One

      I had a friend in this situation. After a disastrous freshman year in college (too much partying and goofing off) she got her act together. Still, when she applied for jobs as a teacher they required a copy of her transcript. She managed to get a fair number of interviews, but was repeatedly questioned about her poor grades during her freshman year. She tried to spin it the way you suggested, but it didn’t help.

      She never found work as a teacher and ended up going back to school and becoming a nurse (which has its own set of problems). However, her transcripts with the nursing courses were much better and she got a job as a nurse right away.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        I feel bad for your friend because, in my opinion, we need more teachers who know what it is like to struggle in school. Otherwise, you have a large chunk of students who are being taught by teachers who do not understand that a) school is hard, b) school is not fun, and c)not everyone can understand everything.

        Reply
    2. MadGrad

      Agreed so much. I know so so many people who wanted to get into medicine/biology as freshmen who were beaten into Public Health or other more peripheral (but equally awesome and respectable!) fields by those hardcore Bio and BioChem courses. I also know people who pushed through an extra year to retake them. Hardworking, smart people get bad grades sometimes too!

      Reply
    3. KHB

      But college classes generally aren’t meant to be impossible challenges that take a superhuman level of persistence to overcome – they’re supposed to be reasonable tasks that most people can pass the first time. Willingness to keep working at a problem until it’s solved is all well and good, but if everyone else is solving the same problem on the first try, it’s still a red flag.

      I’m sympathetic to the idea that otherwise smart, capable people might have trouble adjusting to college, or have a bad semester, or have a problem in their personal life that temporarily derails their schooling. I had friends like that in college too, and I thought their ability to get back up, dust themselves off, and keep going was admirable. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here: OP3 specifically says that the failed classes were spread across the candidate’s whole time in college, which makes me think that there’s something different going on.

      Reply
      1. Lablizard

        HAH! You obviously had a different experience than I did. My organic chemistry classes​ had means (cutoff between a B and a C) on finals ranging from 17%-43%. This is what happens when Nobel nominees and lauriates try to make something “easy” without consulting with grad students or realizing from experience that most of a class of 700 should not be scoring below 50%.

        Reply
        1. KHB

          I think we actually agree, since you mention that grades in those classes were curved so that most of the students with scores below 50% still passed (with B’s and C’s).

          I’ve had professors who had the philosophy that they should AIM to design their exams so that the median score was right around 50%, so they could make use of the full dynamic range available to them. (If all the grades are clustered in the 80s and 90s, the reasoning goes, it’s a lot harder to tell the A students from the B students, because one silly arithmetic error might drop you from an A down to a B. But when the A students have scores in the 80s and the B students have scores in the 60s, there’s a lot more distance between them. I don’t know if I agree with that approach or not, but that’s what they told me they were trying for.)

          But none of this has anything to do with what OP3’s talking about, which is repeated grades of F.

          Reply
          1. blackcat

            I do this (though aiming for a 60% mean/70% median). It makes students cranky, but it provides a far better assessment of where students are at. If I have multiple students getting 100%, that means my test is too easy. Similarly, if too many are getting below a 20%, it’s too hard.

            Reply
          2. Lablizard

            My classes were designed to have 60% of the class get D’s and Fs. They were the classic, “Look to your left, look to your right. 2 of you will not pass this class”. It was a wheat from chaff and designed for the majority not to pass. I managed it and have never been prouder of C- to B- grades

            Reply
            1. KHB

              Then I am confused. The mean was the cutoff between a B and a C, and yet 60% of the class got D’s and F’s? I don’t think both of those things can be true. Or are you talking about a different class from the one you mentioned above?

              Reply
              1. Lablizard

                Sorry, I was totally unclear. The B/C cutoff was for a test (final exam) in one class. The standard of only 33% passing was for the intro classes (multiple) as a whole. It was brutal.

                Reply
                1. Lablizard

                  Aaaaaand apparently with all my education I still can’t type. That should read midterm and final tests, not finals

            2. Chaordic One

              I’ve heard that certain public state colleges do this because under statute they have to admit almost everyone. They weed out a lot of freshman because they don’t have funding to educate all of the students and to pay for higher level courses. It weeds out the chaff, but also a lot of people who could probably have passed with a bit better instruction and more support. It seems cruel.

              Reply
        2. Lora

          YES THIS.

          OChem, Process Controls and Advanced Engineering Math were the “washout” classes at my alma maters. If you couldn’t cut it in OChem, you weren’t fit to be a doctor/pharmacist/chemist. The Process Controls/Advanced Engineering Math prof was just a jerkwad who hated teaching and dumped it on his TAs whenever possible. If you asked for help or advice, you were told to go back to DiffEq.

          Reply
        3. Amy

          I had two classes in my major (accounting) where we were told in the first class that 30 to 50% wouldn’t be making it to the end. My school had a really generous withdrawal policy that went to the midpoint of the semester so most people did that rather than take an F. People either did better the second time around or switched majors.

          Reply
        4. Lily in NYC

          I’d love to know how many people give up on being pre-med after taking organic chemistry! It was everyone’s scariest class at my university.

          Reply
          1. KHB

            Now veering a bit off topic, but my theory of organic chemistry is that the whole class is a trick. Most students try to learn the material by rote memorization of lists of unrelated facts (of the form chemical X + chemical Y yield chemical Z, etc.), but that’s not how you’re “supposed” to do it at all. You’re “supposed” to figure out that there’s an intuitive logic to how molecules behave, so you can store all those reactions in your brain in a way that makes sense. However, they don’t actually tell you this, and they leave you to figure it out on your own, for reasons that I don’t quite understand.

            For complicated reasons, I took my college chemistry classes all out of order, and I ended up taking inorganic chemistry (an advanced class that’s similar in structure to orgo, but only for upperclass chemistry majors) before organic chemistry. In inorganic chemistry, the jig was up, and the professor was much more open about how the class was really more about developing our chemical intuition. I took orgo the following year, and breezed through it.

            So if I saw a transcript of a candidate who had had to retake organic chemistry or some other notorious “weed-out” class, I wouldn’t worry too much, as long as their grades were otherwise good. But if they’d had to retake every single class in the chemistry major, that would still be cause for concern.

            Reply
            1. Marillenbaum

              That’s so true! Honestly, even as a social science grad student, I’m finding that principle still applies: we aren’t simply learning facts, but rather are meant to understand the architecture of theory and how the different concepts interrelate so that when we’re given a case, we can slide it into the existing structure and analyze it from there. Realizing this has made my reading for class so much easier, because I’m asking “How does this connect?” and not “How do I memorize all this?”

              Reply
              1. Hlyssande

                The huge difference in what you’re meant to learn in college vs grade/middle/high school in the US, at least, is staggering. With current learning standards and teaching to the test, memorization seems to really be where it’s at, rather than critical thinking.

                Reply
            2. LabTech

              I’m not sure I agree with that, as a former chemistry major. While I did take a major-specific class, in my experience the difficulty was that test questions were far more advanced than the material covered, sometimes even coming from next week’s chapter. Essentially, Orgo is difficult because it’s the first time a student is exposed to thinking of a molecule as a 3-dimentional object with each atom having different inclinations towards reactivity rather than chemical formulae on a page. There’s also the inherent difficulty of having to visualize 3D molecules and their various conformation, and differentiate that from its mirror image. Inorganic chem is actually much easier in comparison (particularly if you’re good at math); I considered it a continuation of general chemistry. That said, “warming up” with less challenging advanced chemistry classes sounds like a solid strategy.

              I’d also argue the notorious difficulty of chemistry classes in college is an artificial consequence of the chemistry job market being saturated, but that’s a topic for another thread. Circling back to the topic, I feel like the transcript would only be relevant if this is some highly technical position where the subject matter of the courses directly covers the position’s roles. But if that were the case, the manager should have asked for them before making a decision.

              Reply
          2. Justme

            At my university, they commonly became Psychology majors (not hating on Psych majors, I was one too).

            Reply
        5. Queen of the File

          Yup. I was part of an unfortunate test run of a computer programming course where the TA who was teaching decided to flip the curriculum and teach large concepts before specific language. Unfortunately they didn’t adjust the assignments so we had to learn the language on our own in order to complete them. 70% of the class of about 240 dropped the course; the final average *not including everyone who dropped out* was 28%. They curved that up to a pass and I managed a D. It did not look awesome when applying to teach computer programming later!

          I also had a class where, on the first day, the (tenured) prof told everyone he would only allow 50% the class to pass, since “there is no way that more than 20 people a year should be allowed to continue in this program”. We complained to the dean, but it did nothing.

          If I had failed I don’t know how I would explain either of those to a prospective employer later without sounding like I was trying to make excuses.

          Reply
          1. Biff

            Truly, anyone who has gone through school in the last 20 years has to remember how ill-behaved many academics are.

            Reply
          2. KHB

            That’s why I said “generally.” Yes, there are instructors who are incompetent, curmudgeonly, or downright sadistic, and it’s easy to believe that an isolated low grade or two could be due to an encounter with one of them. For a repeated pattern of failing grades, however, that seems less likely as an explanation.

            Reply
      2. No, please

        I wonder if these courses are related or similar. If they are all math courses, for example. I just hate the idea of this holding any person back even though they’ve earned the degree. It makes me even more terrified to go back to school.

        Reply
        1. KHB

          I don’t think anyone’s saying that the candidate needs to be “held back” with no further discussion. We’re saying (or at least I am) that the failing grades are enough of a red flag for a possible problem that more information is needed.

          Reply
          1. No, please

            I guess what bothers me is that this degree isn’t required for the job in the first place. I’m trying to understand why having to try, try, and try again is a problem? Not trying to disagree or say anyone is wrong, just confused.

            Reply
            1. KHB

              The letter says that this major isn’t required for the job. That makes me think that a degree (in some major) is required – possibly as a way of verifying that candidates have the nonspecific academic skills (like time management, organization, balancing multiple priorities, etc.) that come with a college education. If that’s the case, then a pattern of failed classes (whether inside the major or out, and regardless of what the major is) would be a warning sign that perhaps those skills are not as well-developed as the employer would like.

              Reply
      3. Mike C.

        This isn’t always the case. My alma mater is notorious for having an insane workload, challenging courses and no grade inflation.

        Reply
      4. Scarecrow

        I agree with this comment. I see people make a “someone with Fs persevered vs. someone with As just had everything handed to them” dichotomy often in discussions like this, but I don’t think that’s the whole story every time. Anecdotal evidence, but I got all my college As (in a tough, hard sciences major) the first time *because* I’m the kind of person who sticks with it and tries hard. Just because you do well in school doesn’t mean that you’ve never been challenged and will wind up falling apart at the first bump in the road–it could very well mean that you meet a challenge head-on and learn quickly. Likewise, I’ve met plenty of students who refused to do their work, got Fs or Ds, and then just took the class again with an easier professor and copies of old tests from their friends.

        This doesn’t mean that everyone who has As necessarily IS going to perform well. I just want to highlight that I don’t think you can make the assumption that someone who has a lot of Fs is going to be full of perseverance and drive either.

        I don’t want to be too harsh, but I don’t think assuming that “lots of Fs and eventually getting a good GPA = perseverance” is always going to be correct. There are definitely other factors at play, and there are a lot other commenters have listed to which I think any of us would be sympathetic. There are also some that aren’t sympathetic at all.

        A whole lot of failed classes throughout their whole college career? That definitely seems like something that should have some weight and consideration in this decision. I’m not saying it should be the *only* thing, but it definitely is a concern to consider carefully alongside anything else.

        Reply
        1. PepperVL

          No, but neither is assuming “lots of Fs that were eventually corrected = person will fail/can’t follow through” going to be correct. We don’t know what happened with this candidate. The possibility that Fs that were later corrected means perseverence exists, which is another argument in favor of talking to the candidate. They may have fixed things by taking classes from an easier professor, but they may also have fixed things by learning how they learn and developing better habits. Or they might have fixed things by dealing with whatever outside force (health, family issues, etc.) affected them.

          Reply
          1. Scarecrow

            I never claimed it would be; I’m responding to the point you’ve mentioned, which many people have already raised. I hadn’t seen as many pointing out that it isn’t necessarily evidence of amazing perseverance, so that’s why I made my comment. It could mean a lot of different things, and we do not know.

            That’s why I’m saying that it should be *considered*. Not that it should be an immediate rejection, but that the people hiring need to use what they do know to evaluate the situation and how it will affect their needs.

            Reply
        2. Temperance

          I’ll be honest, I find the “Fs perservered!” logic kind of bewildering. You have to really try to fail many college courses.

          Reply
          1. Scarecrow

            Yes… I have to agree, personally. Even in our super tough organic chemistry classes, the only people I knew who failed were the ones who never showed up to class or read the textbook and were shocked when they performed accordingly on the exams. Now, some people who were used to all As may have wound up with Bs and Cs, but Fs (especially multiple ones throughout the college career) are something of a different deal. As a current student, I admit I’d be very guarded if I saw a transcript like that.

            I still think that an open mind and full consideration is necessary–and that means neither jumping to “Fs mean they’re a total slouch” nor deciding “Fs mean they persevered!” But my personal feelings? Yep, they’re right in line with your comment.

            Reply
          2. Zillah

            I think that’s highly dependent on the school. Most people in my friend group failed a few courses – we weren’t trying to, and the generalization is frankly a little disrespectful to your fellow commentators.

            There are lots of potential reasons and contexts for repeatedly failing classes. Some are relevant to someone’s ability to do a given job, and some aren’t. We can’t know. It’s appropriate for the OP to ask; I don’t think that it’s appropriate to make broad generalizations or assumptions in any direction.

            Reply
          3. tigerlily

            For those of us commenting here who DID fail college courses, please realize how disrespectful you sound.

            Reply
      5. LiveAndLetDie

        This depends WILDLY on the institution providing the degree, though. I went to a public college where getting an F means you just stopped showing up, because any minor amount of effort would get you at least a C. But my brother went to our state’s Tech university which is well known for its punishing grading curves and near-impossible tests and requirements, and where graduating with any grade considered “passing” is still a laudable accomplishment, even if you scraped by with a low C.

        A C average at my university would have been embarrassing; at his university it’s an accomplishment. To blanket the whole of college with “college classes aren’t meant to be impossible challenges” when the style can vary so wildly between institutions is disingenuous.

        Reply
      6. Cyndi

        I’m glad to be past the point of people looking at my grades; having an undiagnosed illness for the entirety of college meant that I got bad grades and had to take some classes over. Regardless of the fact that not everyone absorbs the same information at the same rate. It’s totally overblowing it to call it a red flag.

        Reply
    4. I before E

      I get this, but if it’s a job where the person needs to catch on Right Now, showing that you need multiple attempts to catch on may not be a good sign.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        I understand, but if you’re looking at a transcript I would still say focus on their last two years. I really doubt how someone performs as an 18-year-old freshman has much relevance on how they will do as a 23-year-old employee.

        Reply
        1. I Before E

          Well, the LW says the fails were spread out over the entire college career, so they may have been in those last two years.

          Reply
    5. KR

      This is what I was thinking. I had to retake a course in college that j failed miserably. I passed with a C the second time and I worked extremely hard for it.

      Reply
  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, the candidate definitely did not lie to or mislead you (as evidenced in part by getting you their transcript, which suggests they weren’t trying to hide anything). If my school let me list the best of 4 grades from a class I had to repeat, I’d totally use that (presumably higher) GPA on my apps, too.

    But I’m curious about why you/your boss are worried. It sounds like two issues are at play—(1) did the applicant misrepresent their academic qualifications, and (2) if someone fails this often, are they competent to do this job?

    Because you don’t require a college degree, I don’t think it’s right to ding someone based in your perception that they embellished their college GPA. I’d also argue that retaking a class demonstrates perseverance. If the candidate is otherwise strong/qualified, then the nature of how the candidate’s GPA was calculated was accurate for OP’s school, then I think you should let this go. It seems to have little bearing on New Coworker’s ability to do the job and do it well.

    Reply
    1. hbc

      I think it’s okay to ding a candidate for embellishing *anything*, even if it’s an out-of-the-blue irrelevant claim that, say, they’ve visited every major league ballpark when in fact they’ve only done the American League stadiums. It has nothing to do with the job, but you just lied to me.

      But that’s not the case here, as you point out with your numbered issues. 1) She didn’t lie or embellish, because her college has confirmed her GPA. She wasn’t asked whether she found her courses easy or ever failed or anything. so there wasn’t even any rug-sweeping. 2) If having taken the courses isn’t a requirement for the job, it shouldn’t matter if she failed them 100 times. She’s still passed them once, which is *more* than the minimum requirement.

      Reply
      1. Queen of the File

        I agree! What answer was the employer expecting?
        “Please tell us your GPA”
        “It is 3.8. However I had to re-take a bunch of courses after failing them first.”
        “Oh… so what is your actual GPA then”
        “Well, still 3.8”

        Reply
      2. Fictional Butt

        “More than the minimum” isn’t necessarily enough to give her the job, though. Presumably they have other candidates. If they are comparing a new grad with a 3.8 GPA who failed a bunch of classes versus a new grad with a 3.8 GPA who never failed a class, why should they choose the first one (without more information)?

        Reply
        1. tigerlily

          I would think they should hire them because of this: “The behavior, technical, and simulation-job-responsibility portions of the interview were all above average, and the candidate had some relevant experience that showed. They were well-spoken and outgoing, both of which are important for the position.”

          Reply
    2. Kinsley M.

      My college does this as well. I had a 4.0 before my miscarriage. After I lost my daughter, I was in major denial about how much it affected me and failed a couple courses which I went on to pass, with As, later. My official GPA is still a 4.0. And quite honestly, the only thing a manager would get by asking me what happened in those classes is me crying in their office.

      Now I’ve never had to produce transcripts in my field, and I’d look at someone a little side-eyed if they did. But I think it’s a little disingenuous to not require the degree then ding her for the way she got the degree.

      Reply
  8. Bea

    My previous bosses were father figures to me but the idea of them being asked for my hand in marriage is outlandish at best.

    About the efficiency being so high, you could be speaking about me. I finish jobs so quickly compared to others who have been in my position, I often wonder if I’m doing something wrong. I sit rereading my work frequently because “it couldn’t have been so simple, I must have messed it up.” Nope, it turns out the real reason is that I work in one speed and that’s overdrive. I’d be hired for a two week temp assignment and be done in half the time years ago.

    I welcome new tasks being given to me so I feel productive. I’d ask him to do more if that’s an option.

    Reply
    1. Sabine the Very Mean

      I’m the same way. I used to think it was due to my private–>public move but I’m not sure. I just think an 8 hour day is difficult to fill. Luckily, my job involves as much field work as I want it to so I take advantage.

      Reply
      1. Bea

        I thought it was just a couple of jobs when I first started out, figuring it was the companies and the people before me being lazy. Then I got older and realized that I just streamline everything, on top of my fast typing and general need to move quickly. The person before me in my company now was not dumb or slow by any means but I’m still tweaking things and the people around me are shocked things get done faster than ever.

        Reply
    2. Princess Carolyn

      Seeing an older male boss as a father figure: not weird. Wanting your boss’s blessing for a proposal/marriage: so, so weird.

      Reply
  9. Thlayli

    OP1 I suspect this will be a minirity view, but I think you should at least consider telling them they have your blessing. Reason being it will cost you nothing but make her happy.

    I feel really sorry for the woman. She thinks of you as a father figure to the extent she told her boyfriend your blessing on their marriage would be great, but you have no personal feeling towards her at all, outside of work.

    It’s heartbreaking.

    Im assuming this letter was written some time ago so she may already know about it. If so You could call her into the office, ask her some questions about boyfriend like does he treat her well, and assuming the answers are good say in that case you have my blessing. It will cost you 5 minute of your time and make her very happy.

    However you are also going to have to make it clear that you don’t want to walk her down the aisle.

    If he still hasn’t proposed and she doesn’t know then it’s a lot easier to get out of it by telling him you don’t want to do it for some reason other than you don’t have strong feelings about her. E.g. Because you feel uncomfortable doing it behind her back. (personally if someone asked for my blessing to marry one of my kids I would say something like “it’s not up to me. You can ask and they can decide but my blessing shouldn’t come into it”).

    Reply
    1. paul

      I’d worry it might cost you and them all something: an understanding of personal vs professional boundaries. Understanding the difference is valuable.

      Reply
      1. Bookworm

        I agree. Maintaining boundaries can be a very compassionate thing to do. Blurring those lines if OP isn’t willing to “follow through” emotionally is likely more hurtful to this girl in the long run.

        Reply
      2. MuseumChick

        I agree with Paul. LW1 made it clear that from is perspective he has only a professional working relationship with the employee. That is normal and healthy. Playing into the “blessing” breaks that professional boundary and gives the employee evidence of a closer relationship than they actually have.

        Reply
    2. Sami

      If the Boss/OP does give his blessing, I’d worry about what might come next? Going to the wedding? The OP doesn’t sound they have that kind of relationship where he’d be invited. Walk her down the aisle? Daddy-Daughter dance? Godfather to their children?
      OP- Alison’s script says it best.

      Reply
      1. Isabelle

        This is exactly what I would worry about, next thing you know he will be asked to walk her down the aisle and who knows what else. It’s kinder for everyone to put a stop to this now.

        This situation is so bizarre, I wonder if the employee or her boyfriend are from a country where this is the norm and this is a cultural misunderstanding.

        Reply
    3. The Expendable Redshirt

      It’s much more appropriate for the fiance to ask for a blessing from one of her family members. The mother, siblings or cousins for example. The role that Fiance is asking of Boss is a very intimate one. It crosses the professional/personal boundary.

      Reply
    4. Why Don't We Do It in the Code

      I’d be pretty much creeped out by my manager asking me “does he treat you well?,” making a judgment on that, and then giving their “blessing.” We are here in a professional relationship. My private decisions are not the manager’s to get involved in.

      Reply
      1. Thlayli

        I would feel the same too in that situation, but given the texts OP mentioned it’s pretty clear the employee in this case feels differently.

        Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not in any way advocating that managers in general should be asked for their employees hands in marriage (there’s a sentence I never thought I would type). But this seems like a special case of a person with a very strong feeling of grief over the loss of a parent who has inappropriately granted “father figure” status to someone. Is it inappropriate and boundary crossing? Yes. Is it a very fallibly human way to behave?

        The woman is obviously in some emotional pain in the first place. Sure you could say “suck it up and get counselling” and she probably should. But I think it would also be a kind thing to do to give her this little thing.

        It’s purely empathy towards her making me think this. I’m not in any way suggesting she or her bf are behaving rationally or that this is logically a good idea. It’s just a nice thing to do.

        Reply
        1. Someone

          Why?
          I don’t see why seeing OP as a father figure HAS to include him being an authority in her personal life. I could just as well imagine this as seeing him as some kind of role model, an idea of how grown men ought to be, as someone whom she trusts and respects and looks up to, as someone who supports her.
          All these things could make someone “a kind of” father figure (especially if she didn’t grow up with a father) and yet be restricted to her professional life. After all, she DID stay professional with him and didn’t tell him much about her personal life…

          I really don’t see why anything here would suggest that she feels he has authority over her other than in their employee-manager relationship (and more authority than her mother regarding personal decisions!!!), and also none that she would be fine with anyone giving her “permission” to marry.

          Reply
          1. Thlayli

            I’m not in any way saying he has to. I personally disagree with the idea that fathers have to give their permission at all. However the employee clearly feels otherwise. she actually texted her boyfriend saying her boss’s blessing on their marriage would be great.

            Reply
            1. Thlayli

              And actually it’s only his blessing they are asking for not his permission so authority doesn’t come in to it.

              Reply
        2. The Expendable Redshirt

          Yeah… still no. A the nicest thing for the Boss to do is give a Congratulations card to the couple or such. Not to be involved in permission granting blessings. If I’m understanding things correctly, the employee wouldn’t even know if Boss declined more involvement. So no hurt feelings there.

          Reply
        3. hbc

          “Is it inappropriate and boundary crossing? Yes.”

          And that’s why you don’t encourage seeing it as appropriate by participating. It would be mean to sit the employee down because of this one boundary-crossing (by someone else) and say, “Just to be clear, I don’t in any way feel parental to you, and you should not regard me as a father-figure.” But I disagree completely that it would be nice to pretend like this is appropriate.

          Here’s what’s nice: “Boyfriend, it would be inappropriate for me to weigh in on an employee’s personal life, no matter how much I might like and respect her. I don’t have any permission to give or deny. I wish you both the best though.”

          Reply
          1. afiendishthingy

            yep, that’s the script! OP cannot – and clearly doesn’t want to – be involved in any way with this relationship. Fiance shouldn’t be contacting his fiancees boss unless it’s to tell him she’ll be out of work due to being in a coma. Indulging this creepy inappropriate request would cost much more than 5 minutes.

            Reply
          2. Thlayli

            I actually did say that if she doesn’t already know about it that he should decline along those lines.

            I was assuming she already knows though since there is a delay between submitting letters and having them published. Alison may well have sent OP a response before the letter was published, but commenters can only comment now, and its a strong possibility the OP has already refused, boyfriend and employee are now engaged, boyfriend told employee what boss said and employee is still silently hoping for boss’s blessing.

            Or maybe not. Maybe she has no clue his blessing was even requested. In which case problem solved. Or maybe she found out about the request and was mortified because that was not what she meant by her text at all. We won’t know unless we get an update.

            Reply
    5. Bea

      But what if the boyfriend is a sexist pig, insisting the girlfriend has these close feelings towards the boss and is playing it up only because he thinks he has to ask another man to marry the woman? Then the boss turns around and adds to a relationship that isn’t one he’d generally agree with?

      If I’m giving my blessing, I better know the people well. If he hurt her in the end, I’d feel like a real idiot at the very least.

      You can’t just give a person what they want on a superficial basis in these cases. This guy is setting off warning signals in my mind by being so grossly inappropriate.

      I view bosses as father figures at times but in a leadership and guidance in my professional life. I’d be outraged if someone took that to mean they need to know my personal life.

      Reply
      1. Thlayli

        I read a letter which says the employee actually texted her boyfriend saying she would like her boss’s blessing.

        It seems you read a different letter.

        Reply
    6. Blue

      I’m not entirely convinced it will make her happy. There are several things about this that feel really odd. Even if she was pleased about it, it’s really not OP’s responsibility to make his employee happy in her personal life. He should decline and perhaps redirect fiancee to the mom (or, you know, to the employee herself).

      Reply
      1. afiendishthingy

        “Even if she was pleased about it, it’s really not OP’s responsibility to make his employee happy in her personal life.” Yep, this right here. The woman’s family of origin and how it has shaped her is really none of OP’s business unless it’s somehow impeding her ability to do her job.

        Reply
  10. Thlayli

    OP2 look into ways to promote this person. They are obviously being under-utilised. Get them doing something more for the company and increase their pay accordingly.

    Definitely don’t give them more work for no extra pay. That just makes people feel used. More work, higher position (or additional position) and more pay.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s not always practical though. If it’s a small organization, there may be no place to put the person. Or they may be highly efficient in the current job but not have the skills for a promotion. If it is practical, then great — but there are other ways to deal with this too.

      (I’d also argue that it’s not a foregone conclusion that the person will feel used if they do extra work without extra pay. I owe a lot of my career progression to having opportunities to do extra work, which I wouldn’t have had if I’d refused to do it without extra pay. The OP shouldn’t require the extra work, but the person may actually want it. Depends on the person and the situation.)

      Reply
      1. Clewgarnet

        There’s a difference between more work and different work, though.

        I get through approximately twice as much of Job A as my coworkers. It’s a pretty boring, repetitive task, but I put on podcasts, hyperfocus, and power through it. If my reward for that was to be given even more of Job A, without receiving any extra pay, I’d be miffed.

        Thankfully, I have a manager who instead gets me involved in different projects and helps me develop the skills and experience necessary for my career to progress. I’m quite happy to take on that extra work without extra pay, because I’m benefiting from it and because it’s interesting.

        Reply
        1. Horse Lover

          I agree with Clewgarnet. There is a difference between more of the same and learning new or different work.

          I’m in this position now. I keep my task box up to date as possible, but because I’m always so caught up my manager or others will take overdue work from my peers and give it to me to catch them up. It’s one thing when I’m helping someone out because of vacations or unforseen events, illnesses, etc. But I am miffed and silently complaining in my head because most of the stuff I’m given is because everyone else manages their time poorly or always has “more complicated” work to do. My work mentor always has a majority of the “more complicated” work to do and manages to get everything done. So I don’t think it’s impossible, I think it’s time management.

          So yeah, OP2 try and give this guy something. I would love permission to study outside subjects I’m interested in, read a book, or be allowed to organize my Pinterest boards.

          Reply
          1. Amy the Rev

            Agreed!

            I’m currently in a Temp job to staff the ‘front’ desk (‘front’ because we dont actually have any interactions with outside folks, but im the general office admin person), and there just isn’t much for me to do- most of the job is just being present at the desk in case the phone rings, which happens maybe 4x/day….I’d LOVE it if I had explicit permission to read a book during the times when my colleagues don’t have any other tasks for me to do.

            Reply
      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        I agree with this. At my last job, I grabbed for a bunch of extra responsibilities with the understanding that while I wouldn’t get paid for them specifically, they’d be building my case for a promotion and a raise, and also offer me a lot of learning and scope for my career. Not all compensation is financial!

        Reply
        1. INeedANap

          I did the same thing! I started part time, worked quickly, and took on a lot of extra, different projects in my free time on the job and made friends in the department because I earned the reputation of someone who would get things done.

          Now, I start my full-time position on Monday – for a good raise, my own office, and a lot more responsibility. I’d never have gotten this new position if it wasn’t for the glowing references and the extra experience I got from those unpaid (or, rather, not paid any extra) additional projects.

          Reply
          1. FlibbertyG

            Yes, you have to decide for yourself, based on your knowledge of the company you work for and the skills you’d be gaining, if this is a good bargain. Sadly I’ve seen many people take on extra tasks for no more pay assuming they’d be rewarded, and some where – some weren’t. The company may be satisfied at getting the additional work done for cheap and plan to keep things exactly the way they are forever. My suggestion would be not to do this for more than six months – a year at the very most? – before trying to move up or on.

            Reply
    2. Ramona Flowers

      Hmm. Super-efficient employee here, due to being ex-media (everything moves faster in that world) and ex-freelance. I’ve been very happy with some stretch projects, training and time to spend on my own learning but I also want extra work because it’s not really extra, it’s the right workload for me. I am stressed and miserable if I don’t have enough to do and blissfully happy if you give me – rhe person actually doing the job – the right amount of work. YMMV.

      Reply
    3. paul

      what about training? I keep asking work about intensives in Excel and Access and a few other software suites (“not in the budget” which I can actually believe–non profit dependent on gov’t contracts, we’re in pucker mode right now).

      Of course part of it is I love playing with pivot tables and getting to do that on the clock is great. Vlookup can DIAF though

      Reply
      1. Purple Dragon

        I haven’t seen DIAF in ages !
        I don’t have an issue with vlookup but tank miserably with pivot tables – I just can’t get my head around them.

        Reply
      2. AlexandrinaVictoria

        My company provides online training, and I’m in the middle of becoming an Excel expert with my extra time right now. I also took all the trainings the people I audit took, to help me in coaching.

        Reply
        1. excel_fangrrrl

          vlookup!!! *squee* #VlookupForLife

          i’m a Super Efficient Worker and i recently went to my boss asking for additional tasks. it was risky because i’m the only back-end data person on a large sales team and i want *nothing* to do with sales. she realized that she’s does in fact have other people on our team who do this one quarterly report or that one weekly upload. she’s decided to consolidate All The Data Stuff into my role! i’m so excited. i get to learn new things and have less down time during the day. it’ll also put me in touch with new people throughout the organization. AAAAND more pivot tables!!!

          Reply
          1. paul

            I do pivot tables for fun with made up datasets >.> They make my brain happy is the best way I think to explain it. Like listening to Bob Ross

            Reply
      3. Marillenbaum

        Gosh, this is stuff I need to learn. I took Stats for IR this semester, and we learned to use Stata, which was cool but not a thing I’ll necessarily have access to after I graduate; I really want to gain skills on Excel but I’m not sure the best way to go about it.

        Reply
        1. paul

          Just for a basic start, the Excel for Dummies book isn’t bad, and there’s a ton of youtube channels focusing on it. Honestly, that’s been enough to make me better than the vast majority of users so far. I’d like more structured and focused training to really wring out the rest of the programs functionality, and I’d like a serious start in Access (we tried this at work but it beat our PC’s into submission with any sizable data sets–I’d have to do this at home with my own, much more powerful, PC).

          Reply
          1. JustaTech

            A while ago I taught myself Access just using the Microsoft tutorials. I was amazed that I could actually learn from them, but they were pretty good. I had one false start on building the structure of the database, and one advanced thing I ended up asking a computer-science friend for the technical term for, but other than that it was just the online tutorials.

            Reply
      4. Arielle

        Have you thought about learning SQL? I’m the same way re: pivot tables vs. vlookup, but SQL came really easily to me. There are a bunch of free tutorials online if your work can’t/won’t pay for a course.

        Reply
      5. LQ

        (Slightly off topic (but slightly not) your local library may give you access to Lynda which has some great online training things. Not the same as an in person class but a lot of them are very good and I’d highly recommend them. And the ontopicier part would be if the OP here doesn’t have a lot of resources they can offer time to do something like these classes and maybe even something like, here are reports that need to be done, is there a better way to make them sing?)

        Reply
    4. JYC

      I agree with the suggestion to either promote the employee or give a raise. I was the super-efficient employee at one of my old jobs, and I would regularly do the work of about five other people in the same amount of time. At first, I took pride in doing a good, efficient job and I know my boss appreciated me, especially when everyone else in my department worked in a much more leisurely fashion with multiple breaks and low urgency.

      But soon, I began to see that I was doing all their work for them and they still got paid triple what I did, and that because of the pay structure I wasn’t up for a raise for ages. I resented it and started to slow down, even forcing myself to take breaks to match the others, and eventually became a disgruntled employee. My boss was panicked when I quit since I was doing so much work, but it would have made a world of difference to me if he had tried to expand my role, or allowed me to have downtime instead of filling it with other people’s share of work, or even if he’d just acknowledged the imbalance.

      Reply
    5. Lora

      Whoa whoa whoa.

      I’m going to be the negative a-hole here: Please observe exactly how they manage to get all this done very carefully. I mean, you want to know so that you can learn the processes and pass it along to their colleagues, right? It’s a learning opportunity all around.

      I’m thinking here of Annie Dookhan, who miraculously got all her work done much, much faster than all of her colleagues in the Massachusetts crime lab, for several years. Her bosses scolded her colleagues for not working as fast or as efficiently, and while there was high turnover in the lab, Annie stayed on loyally and got promotions. Turned out she was making results up out of thin air and never actually ran any of the testing. Massachusetts just had to void over 20,000 convictions that were based on her lab reports. It’s been quite the scandal around here.

      Reply
      1. Ann

        Or it could be the opposite. For a while my supervisor was very concerned that I was finishing assignments before deadline, and took the position that I should get more assignments than others, which left me scrambling to finish everything. Eventually it came out that others were finishing stuff and holding it until the deadline. Lesson learned? Hold assignments until deadline.

        Reply
        1. Lora

          It could be, I’m not saying it is definitely sketchy, but I’m saying, find out how they do it. If they have some trick for being super-efficient, more power to them and they should teach their colleagues this marvelous skill if possible.

          Reply
          1. Lala

            If nothing else, OP should take the time to make sure the work is being done well/without mistakes.

            If everything’s up to snuff, then they should get the employee to write up a procedures manual or something to document how they’re doing what they do, as odds are if the employee is this good, eventually they’ll be moving on to bigger/better things, and you don’t want to lose whatever insight/streamlining they’ve got incorporated into the job. And give the employee some opportunities for professional development–are there conferences/webinars/accreditation courses that are relevant that employee would be interested in (maybe use some of that down time to have employee look into what kinds of prof. development they’d want to do).

            Reply
            1. The Other Dawn

              “If nothing else, OP should take the time to make sure the work is being done well/without mistakes.”

              This is what I came here to say. Many people DO work more efficiently than others and do the tasks well; however, there are definitely some people who are done way ahead of everyone else and then you find out it’s because they missed a really big step or several smaller steps, or took some shortcuts they shouldn’t have taken. I’ve seen it happen both ways at my old job. Not to say OP’s employee is doing that, but it’s worth checking out when you get a person after a string of people that finishes work that fast.

              Reply
      2. Gazebo Slayer

        THIS. I used to work at a place where a group of people got about twice as much work done as everyone else – until the managers took a look at the work they supposedly did and it turned out they were just passing stuff through quality control without actually checking it. They all got fired.

        Reply
      3. Bird

        I think this is very uncharitable towards the employee, of whom the LW has no such suspicions, based on the letter they wrote. Plenty of people work quickly and efficiently without “cheating”, and I, for one, would be extremely insulted if my supervisor implied that I was not actually doing the work I said I was.

        Also, presumably, the LW would be, you know, aware that the work was actually being finished. It sounds like the crime lab you reference had some huge systemic problems in addition to a dishonest employee.

        Reply
  11. Amber

    #1 Tell him something like “Asking for permission is an outdated tradition, I appreciate your sentiment but she’s not property, she’s a grown and doesn’t need anyone’s permission. I wish you too all the best, good luck!”

    Reply
      1. Zombii

        But the employee’s mother is presumably not a man, and therefore unqualified to determine who should be marrying her daughter. /sarcasm

        Reply
        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          That’s the part that just kills me (and my eyes from the rolling). She has a mother who raised her! And aunts! But no, she has to be “given away” by a man. Sheesh, dude. I can be really old-fashioned at times, but asking for permission squicks me, and insisting that man give said permission gives me the shivers.

          Reply
          1. Marillenbaum

            I definitely broke up with a guy for this nonsense once. His father had died a few years before, and somehow he mentioned something about “because I’m the head of the family”. And I asked “But your mom is still alive, right? So by rights, she’s the head of the family.” And that just did not compute for him, because clearly the head of the family is the oldest surviving man. No, sir, you are not, and I no longer have time in my schedule to see you.

            Reply
            1. MashaKasha

              I just remembered having this conversation with a childhood friend of mine when we both were kids. Like, maybe ten or eleven? His mom had divorced his dad when he was very young, and his grandfather had died a year or so before. All of a sudden he mentions it in a conversation how much pressure on him it is that he’s now the head of the family, and is responsible for protecting his mom and his grandma, whom he lived with. An eleven-year-old kid who never even had any chores that I was aware of. It was 100% the culture of that time/place though. I was not even surprised or outraged or anything when he said that, I was “oh yeah, right, you ARE the head of the family, poor thing. Must be tough”.

              Now, though? I live with my two adult sons after divorcing their dad seven years ago, when they were in high school, and the notion that either of them (I’d guess it’d have to be the oldest) is head of the family would be just as hilarious to them as it is to me. I am the head of the family and they know it! I’m kind of shocked to suddenly recall that we actually believed this nonsense a little less than 40 years ago!

              Reply
    1. Wow

      The employee doesn’t think it’s outdated, nor does her boyfriend. That it’s an outdated tradition is your opinion.

      I dislike when people act as though their opinion is the only right one and it’s more prevalent in this comment section than anywhere else I’ve seen.

      Reply
      1. Junior Dev

        Isn’t that kind of the nature of opinions, that you think they’re correct? This isn’t quite like someone’s preferred movie genre or ice cream flavor. A big part of the reason this situation is so uncomfortable is the sexist implications of seeking out a man, any man, to give permission to marry a woman.

        Reply
        1. Czhorat

          Not all opinions are equally valid and respectable.

          Amber gave her opinion that it is updated with the reasoning that women are now understood to have autonomy and the ability to make personal decisions without permission. Your answer was “well, some people disagree”. That doesn’t define a well-reasoned opinion backed by either fact or a larger, cohesive worldview.

          People too often mistake “opinion” for “personal taste” and don’t think they need to back it up. In my view, an opinion without the backing of fact or a consistent philosophical underpinning need not be respected.

          Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think loads of places are rife with that right now, and here doesn’t strike me as any worse than lots of other places. But I agree with you that it makes for more nuanced discussion when people incorporate an understanding that there are lots of different ways to look at an issue.

        That said, this particular tradition is increasingly understood to be rooted in sexism, so I think it’s legit for people to take a pretty firm stance against it. Of course, it’s also true that it’s helpful to recognize that there are still plenty of people who still practice this tradition, regardless of that.

        Reply
      3. Gaia

        The concept that women are property that belong to the senior man in their life is very much outdated in the modern world and, therefore, so is this tradition. Just because people insist on acting like it isn’t, doesn’t make it true.

        Reply
      4. Language Lover

        The minute the boyfriend decided to approach someone outside of the family whose perspective on this issue he doesn’t even know, he invites that outside opinion. So that includes a “this is weird” (because she’s an employee) and a “this is sexist” because it inherently is. (Really? He can’t ask the girlfriend’s mother who is at least a family member and may be more in agreement with the tradition?)

        Reply
      5. Czhorat

        I understand that, but this tradition *is* rooted in the sexist belief that a woman is property, and that marriage is the transfer of “ownership” from her father to her husband. It’s a way of thinking which is very much contrary to not only my beliefs, but also to the current role of women in contemporary Western society.

        That there’s no close relationship here makes it worse to me; it is no longer even tangentially about involving family, but about getting a man – any man – to save the woman from making a decision on her own.

        Reply
      6. Lala

        I agree with others that it’s outdated. So does my husband.

        However, I knew that my mom and stepdad had felt miffed that my stepsister’s (now ex)husband never asked for their blessing–which is ridiculous, and at least they had the sense to only complain to me and not either of my stepsisters, and they didn’t make a big deal of it or anything. But knowing that (and knowing that I really wanted them to help pay for part of the wedding…and we were going to ask to have the reception at their house), I felt it was worth getting my soon-to-be fiance to ask my mom’s blessing before officially proposing. He didn’t want to ask for a blessing, but agreed to “let her know I’m going to propose”.

        I think it was a pretty good negotiation of the whole thorny issue–one that I wish we hadn’t even had to deal with, but getting married does mean you’re going to have to deal with each other’s parents at times. I didn’t want him starting things off with my mom feeling slighted, even though I agree it’s a silly thing for her to expect (esp. given how modern/independent my mom is…you can take the mom out of Tennessee, but you can’t take the Tennessee out of the mom, I suppose).

        So I *really* see both sides of this. Personally, I am glad it’s a tradition that is slowly going away. But I also get why people still do it, or at least do an updated version of it (hell, one of the characters on Once Upon a Time did exactly the whole “asking permission” thing a few episodes ago, so it’s definitely still a Thing that People Do, whatever our opinions are of it). Families and parents and expectations and traditions are odd, quirky things at times, and sometimes you just want to do whatever is going to make things easier. Sometimes, you don’t want to decide that’s the particular hill you’re going to die on, because you care more about something else.

        But to ask someone outside of the family, especially someone’s boss, is WEIRD. It is really, really strange–if your fiancee is demanding you carry on the tradition, ask the mom! Or someone in the family! Or maybe a close friend. NOT HER BOSS. Especially since it makes it look like you’re just casting about for a dude, ANY DUDE. That just gives me the heebie jeebies. Like, if they were super close or something, maaaaaaaaaybe it would be a little less weird, but still, just…no.

        Reply
    2. anon for this

      It isn’t an outdated tradition but it has become a small part of many engagements. My father wrote my mother’s father for his blessing to marry my mother and it was a great way for my mother’s side of the family to get to know him a bit since my parents had had only one date before they got married (not shotgun). All of the men in my family have done this in some form or fashion. My brother asked his future mother in law for her blessing, her father had passed away many years before. When I got engaged, my fiance refused to do it and I said it didn’t matter. When he jilted me at the altar, part of me wondered if that was a sign. If you think of it as a blessing and not as permission, it would be in line with how my family thinks of it.

      I do think the boyfriend is odd to ask this and it would be stranger if the boss said yes though. If he wants to ask someone, he can ask her mother.

      Reply
        1. Relly

          As someone whose SO did the amount permission (as a formality, not a literal ask), I have to admit this question tripped me up.

          (My sarcastic answer is that I wouldn’t​have asked his family, because they might have said no.)

          Reply
        2. Morning Glory

          I think if you look at this as finding a palatable way to participate in an old, but slightly sexist, tradition, then changing permission to blessing makes sense. Sometimes, especially with weddings, people want to keep the ritual (especially those that honor family members), even if they don’t agree with the meaning behind it. A lot of U.S. brides also wear white and have 1+ parent “give them away” – but these have become pretty meaningless a lot of the time as well.

          Asking for blessings or permission on both sides would be another way to modernize the tradition – but it involves more people, it would probably surprise the groom’s family, and it could just lead to awkwardness all around.

          Reply
          1. Amy the Rev

            When I officiate weddings, I give the couple the option of having the ‘audience’ affirm the wedding, by saying something like:
            “the love collectively in this room, from friends and family, will help sustain and support the promises they make today. All of us here will solidify this bond, as Wakeen and Shavon are joined as husband and wife, and so I ask all who are gathered here, do you promise to encourage and support Shavon and Wakeen in creating a strong and vital marriage? If so, please answer, “We do”. ”

            I find this to be a nice alternative to the ‘asking permission’ bit, but still holding on to the idea that you want explicitly stated support from your loved ones.

            Reply
            1. Aunt Vixen

              We did that. Took vows to each other and called for a vow from the assembled witnesses as well. (I think this is also part of the Church of England wedding ceremony as outlined in the Book of Common Prayer, but as I’m not C of E I’m not positive about that.)

              Reply
            2. Marillenbaum

              I love this! Also, thank you for making the bride’s name Siobhan; for a very long time, that was my Wakeen; like, there’s Shavaughn, and then there’s Siobhan, which is pronounced “See-ob-HAN”.

              Reply
    3. Thlayli

      Yeah that’s a nice way to put it since it doesn’t make it really obvious that OP has no paternal feelings towards her at all.

      Reply
    4. Karo

      I agree with the sentiment here, but this isn’t the boss’ place. At this point the guy needs to enforce professional boundaries, not muddy them by giving a mini-lecture on what he feels about a tradition.

      Reply
    5. Falling Diphthong

      Most traditions are outdated. If you’re old enough to be a tradition, you’re old enough to not perfectly reflect modern contingencies. Schools taking summer off. Ritual gift exchanges between those who don’t need more stuff. And why CAN’T we celebrate Thanksgiving in October, like the Canadians, when the weather is beautiful and it’s nice to be outside and we’re not less than a month from another major travel holiday?

      The problem for OP1 is a violation of professional/personal boundaries; someone upthread suggested some sympathetic scripts with which to draw lines and bow out without scorching any earnest young people too much. The problem is not whether one finds any particular tradition charming or awful.

      Reply
      1. I Before E

        The weather at Thanksgiving is beautiful though! At least where I live – it’s typically cold and gray, which as far as I’m concerned, is as beautiful as weather can get.

        Reply
    6. Marthooh

      The problem is not so much that the tradition is outdated as that the BF doesn’t really seem to understand it. If he wants permission, that should come from the head of the family (presumably the mother), not just from the nearest warm body with a penis attached. If OP wants to be helpful, he can suggest that BF consult MM. Uh, Miss Manners.

      Reply
  12. The Expendable Redshirt

    #1.

    Ick.

    Alison has got this one flawlessly yet again. Tell the fiance that you are not comfortable taking on the role, and wish them all the best.

    Must delete rant on patriarchal wedding traditions. *deep breath* Just ask the lady if she gives permission for the wedding to take place! Or if you want family approval, ask the Mom for permission to make an offer. Not her boss because….ummm…What?

    Reply
  13. Uncivil Engineer

    OP#3… from someone who never, ever listed their GPA on their resume (even when applying for their first job out of college) because it was nothing worth noting: let it go.

    My engineering job requires an engineering degree. Yet, what I do in my job bears little resemblance to what I studied in college. College was solving word problems with advanced calculus and setting up complex simulations in labs. But real life and a real job isn’t a word problem or a lab (unless you actually work in a lab) and I’ve used very little of it directly. This may be different in your field. You’d be the best judge of that.

    I actually consider “how to deal with failure” one of the best lessons I learned from my less-than-stellar college days. Don’t let a few F’s discourage you from hiring an otherwise good candidate.

    Reply
    1. fishy

      “I actually consider “how to deal with failure” one of the best lessons I learned from my less-than-stellar college days.”

      This is a great point.

      Someone looking at my college transcript would probably notice the several Fs and Ds and the multiple semesters when I ended up withdrawing from every class. What they wouldn’t see is that, after years of hard lessons in what doesn’t work for me, by my last semester I finally figured out how to do my best work. (Turns out that mostly I just need reasonable accommodations for my disability. Who knew? I sure didn’t during most of college!)

      Reply
      1. Not Australian

        “Turns out that mostly I just need reasonable accommodations for my disability. Who knew? I sure didn’t during most of college!”

        This is a darn good point, and it’s quite possible this potential employee may have been dealing with health problems of her own but was reluctant to mention them in her application. The playing-field isn’t level for everyone, unfortunately, and poor grades don’t always indicate an unwillingness to do the work.

        Reply
      2. Tau

        Yeah, I failed several classes in my first year at university, retook and passed them, then proceeded to get As in almost every class after. Turns out that going from the very structured environment of high school to the very unstructured environment of university when you have an disability incorporating executive function problems you don’t know about can be… interesting.

        Needless to say, if someone decided to use that poor year against me now I’d be furious.

        Reply
      3. Humble Schoolmarm

        Also, reasonable accommodations may vary between universities. This may have changed in the last few years, but when I was in university one of the institutions near me was well known for accommodating various learning needs, while another was very much sink or swim.

        Reply
    2. Alton

      I agree with this.

      When I first started college, I was a super perfectionist who felt like like anything less than an A was a huge failure. I had very ambitious standards and goals. Then I decided to study engineering. I got a C in a class, which cost me guaranteed transfer to the prestigious school I wanted to attend (I started out at a community college), so I ended up going to a somewhat less impressive school. I got a few more bad grades, and I had some classes where I don’t think I got above a 30 on any exam. In one of my physics classes, we would actually compare how low our grades were.

      It was a good learning experience. I learned that I wasn’t going to be perfect all the time or excel at everything, and that it wasn’t the end of the world. I also learned when to call it quits (engineering really wasn’t for me).

      Reply
    3. Annabell

      Your last paragraph raises such an important point. With the exception of a few classes, I essentially coasted through school until failing he same math course multiple times in undergrad.

      I had never gotten below a C on anything before, and I think learning how to cope with that and eventually rectify the situation was an incredibly important lesson.

      This is less relevant, but I also figured out I had an undiagnosed learning disability and getting the appropriate accommodations really helped

      Reply
      1. FlibbertyG

        One thing I found really different between school and real life was tests. I was never much of a test-taker, as the time restrictions made me feel panicky and hurt my memory. In my career I have almost NEVER encountered time-limited situations, especially when I can’t look things up! It just never happens that my boss says: do this task in an hour, while I’m watching you, and you can’t double check any of your equations or procedures externally. That is … not a thing. Hence, I wasn’t a terrific student but I’m a pretty good employee.

        Reply
  14. Feotakahari

    #2: At one of my previous jobs, I was the assistant to the systems manager. If he ran out of things for me to do, I assisted other managers in the same office. I got to work on a wide variety of tasks, some of which look great on my resume.

    Reply
    1. Working Mom

      Yes – and to go along with Alison’s feedback, OP, please talk to the high performer! As a fellow fast-worker, I would appreciate my manager speaking with me to ask if I am happy with the current workload, if I want/need more of the same to work to stay challenged, or if I would appreciate new/different challenges. I’ve had conversations with my own manager like this is in the past. It went something like this:
      Mgr: “Are you looking for a pay raise and a title increase, or simply looking for new challenges? As much as I would like to offer you a pay raise/title increase, it’s not something I can do now. But I can give you new challenges, and bring you into different projects to give you more/different experience. However, it really matters what YOU want. If you really want the pay raise/title increase, let’s look at some internal positions for you to apply to.”
      ME: “I just want to stay challenged and not get bored – but I want to stay on this team.”
      Mgr: “Great! I have some ideas on projects that I can bring you into.”

      This conversation lead to me getting involved in other projects, and did eventually lead to the pay raise/title increase when my manager was able to offer it to me.

      Reply
      1. FlibbertyG

        Alison’s advice is clearly good here: talk to this employee and ask them what they want, because we see in the comments that reactions vary. Some people are unwilling to do more work without more pay, some want new challenges, some say they’d rather have more freedom or flexibility. It depends on the individual.

        Reply
    2. Amy

      I think this is the approach to take. Acknowledge that he’s getting things done really efficiently, and offer opportunities to take on some extra projects that aren’t just everyday normal stuff in his position. If you can, you should offer increased compensation to reflect that essentially his job description is changing and he’s doing more diverse work…but if you can’t, and the extra opportunities you’re offering are truly opportunities for growth (and not low-level work you’re trying to offload), he might still be interested.

      If that’s not possible (e.g. you don’t have any flexibility in the kind of tasks you’re giving him, or he’s not willing to take on that much extra without a corresponding raise or promotion), consider explicitly telling him that it’s OK to leave when he’s done (if it is) or to bring a book or other personal project (if part of his job is based on being physically present for a set number of hours). But I think most people–or at least, most people who bother to be that efficient at work–would rather have at least the option for some extra growth opportunities.

      Reply
  15. Undine

    “So, young man, you want to marry my employee. May I ask how you are planning to support her on the salary of Junior Teapot Decorator? I consider this demmed impertinence and must ask you to never speak to her again!”

    Reply
    1. writelhd

      Yeah, I agree that asking is so weird and patriarchal and should not be engaged with, but it would be sort of funny to combat the bizzare by being arbitrary back and saying “well no I expressly forbid it!” because…really. Not really advocating this, just funny to think about.

      Reply
      1. afiendishthingy

        I’m not sure whether OP and his employee’s beau spoke in person or over the phone, but either way I would have been tempted to respond “lkfjjlfkjf What? Sorry this jfklfjlkfjk in a tunnel fjklfjklfj can’t hear you ca– click” and then hang up or walk away depending on mode of communication

        Reply
    2. Nottingham

      I’ve been imagining LW going through the greek myths for inspiration, a la The Labours of Hercules: “Well, son, first you’ll need to muck out the killer horses’ stables, and then there’s swordfighting with a gorgon and some harpies, and this solid gold apple quest gets a bit more difficult, and then you’ll need to outwit six or seven gods….”

      Reply
      1. Humble Schoolmarm

        Are you recruiting? You could get 14 solid years of work out of him per the story of Jacob, Leah and Rachael.

        Reply
  16. Ramona Flowers

    #3 If someone has never failed at anything, it’s hard to know how they’ll cope and if they’ll keep trying or give up. With this candidate, you do know. I’d prioritise the results of the tests you did over college grades, because that gives you up to date, real-time information. Also, I’d ask for context. It’s not just about possibly dinging someone for hard times – but actually you might view the results differently if you know what the reason was. And do try to remember they have followed through. It’s not like they dropped out altogether.

    I failed one exam at 18 and did really badly on some stuff in my second year at university. I sometimes see application forms that ask for all my academic results, I don’t apply for the job because I know I won’t get an interview. I guess I could address the context in covering letters, but it’s from a long time ago (I realise that your employer is only asking for recent transcripts, but my experience felt kind of relevant) and it feels strange to bring up. I’m deeply ashamed of those results.

    I applied for a scholarship a few years ago, for a postgrad course I took to retrain. There was a line that said: is there any reason why your academic results don’t meet your full potential? And I was able to explain the actual reasons. I was homeless at 18 – and I also went through university with an undiagnosed chronic illness. With that context, it looks a little different that I finished everything and went on to do a masters degree and have a successful career.

    Not everyone has that story. But grades and exams only tell you how good a person is at getting grades and passing exams – and if someone struggles with that, or there are extenuating circumstances, then that picture is missing. I don’t generally sweep negatives under the rug, but I’m basically screwed if you want my exam results. If I bring them up pre-emptively, I’ll look like an oversharer. If I don’t, someone might draw similar conclusions about me. We all like to put our best foot forward in applications and not talk about the times when things went wrong. But when the thing came with an academic result, it sticks in a way other setbacks don’t.

    Really though, is this about the results themselves, whether they matter and what they say – or the fact you feel you’ve been misled? Is it possible to step back and remember that you have learned something about their academic results – it’s not objective information about their character?

    Reply
  17. Junior Dev

    > Yes, you should use present tense for your current job as long as those are things you’re currently doing. However, when you’re talking about specific accomplishments that you’ve already achieved and are not still doing, those should go in past tense. (For example, you’d write “cut payment time by 30% by revamping the client billing system” since you’ve already done that. But you’d write “manage a team” of six if you’re still doing that currently.)

    I read this and realized “cut” is kind of an interesting example because it’s both past and present tense–so you could also use it for some cost you are currently tasked with cutting (on a continual basis). You probably wouldn’t use it that way though–you’d use a verb describing the process (“implement cost saving measurems”) rather than the (intended) result.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh gosh, my example ended up being horrible for exactly the reason you’re pointing out! I’ll change it to something that actually makes the point I wanted to make.

      Reply
      1. Junior Dev

        I knew what you meant :) but I can see someone being confused by the old sentence.

        A related question I’ve always wondered about–how do you determine what percentage costs/times were lowered by for resume puropses when such things aren’t formally tracked? I can ask on the open thread or send you a question if that’s better, but I’m wondering if there’s some standard way of dealing with this.

        Reply
  18. El

    #3 – I graduated college in the last 5 years and am really really glad no one has asked for my transcripts — between mental illness, physical illness/disability, and just being a disaster of a young adult, my grades were pretty atrocious, and I spent some time on academic probation. And I do have to explain my education history because I got my associate’s degree at a community college after a nightmare of a freshman year at the four-year, and then returned. This doesn’t mean I’m not fully capable of succeeding at my job. My experience isn’t much, but from what I have experienced, ‘doing school’ (ie. getting good grades) and ‘doing work’ are pretty different. Anyway, I am not a manager or in any way in charge of hiring, but I would suggest you check the person’s references (or ask for references) and put more weight towards those. If you’re still concerned about the candidate’s bad grades, ask.

    Reply
    1. Tau

      My experience isn’t much, but from what I have experienced, ‘doing school’ (ie. getting good grades) and ‘doing work’ are pretty different.

      I’d like to cosign this – I struggled so much thanks to disability in university that by the time I finished, I was seriously uncertain I’d be able to manage a fulltime job. Guess what? I’ve been doing one for two years now and getting fantastic reviews. Work and uni are very different environments, and a lot of the things I struggled with the most are just not present in the same form.

      I understand that hiring manager need to use something as a proxy for likely job performance when it comes to new grads, but university performance can still be pretty flawed. Along with El’s suggestion of checking references, do they have any prior work experience, even something like retail? Can you delve into their performance there? That may be more useful information than their grades.

      Reply
      1. aebhel

        Also cosigned. School was not just easy for me, it was effortless. I didn’t hit the proverbial ‘wall’ that people talk about in college; I floated through 4 years at a pretty good school with a near-perfect GPA.

        Now ask me how much trouble I got in early in my work career for screwing off when I was supposed to be working. It’s a lot, trust me.

        Reply
  19. The RO-Cat

    #1: my first guess is Employee comes from a very traditional background, from a minority with strong traditions or is simply in love with chivalrous firy tales. If all else is normal and raises no flags I’d give the “blessing” with a strong statement that (a) it’s just a gesture with no meaning whatsoever, (b) it comes with no obligations for anyone involved and (c) there’s otherwise an impenetrable boundary, that will not be crossed, between work life and private life. Now, I do come from a much more colectivistic culture and I do think the compassionate thing would be to grant Employee her wish, if no further risk is attached to it, but I know there’s a good chance for it not to be the acceptable solution in the US (if, in fact, OP1 is American)

    #2: there are companies out there (3M, Google and Atlassian come to mind) that allow up to 15% of work time to be spent on personal projects linked to work, under the condition that any results are shown and the company owns them. If at all possible maybe that will help both Employee and the company?

    Reply
    1. Princess Carolyn

      I agree that it may be fine to just say “Yes, you may propose to her” only if it’s clear that there’s no other obligation here. If this guy is expecting OP to walk her down the aisle or take on any traditional father-of-the-bride roles, he’s going to have to explain that he doesn’t want to do that.

      Reply
  20. New Bee

    OP3, my old job used to require and evaluate transcripts (for good reason, in the Education field), and during interviews we’d ask if there was anything candidates wanted to share that wasn’t reflected on paper. Many people would struggle in years 1 and 2 and gradually improve, but sometimes I saw people like your candidate, and the story behind it was chronic illness or choosing and sticking with a major because of family pressure.

    Ultimately, since grades did matter (because there was a correlation between college performance and likelihood of passing certification tests), I asked a lot of questions to get at their sense of personal responsibility, ability to persevere, and willingness to ask for help. It sounds like the interview process is over, but maybe this candidate will spark changes in how and why you look at transcripts.

    Reply
    1. Courtney W

      As an education student in a similar situation, how much detail are you generally looking for in the candidate’ answer? I’m an education student who had a really bad year, followed by a gap and then coming back and making dean’s list every semester. I had a letter answered a few months ago and was basically told not to worry about it, to just cite a family issue, but what you said about asking lots of questions to get a sense of things made me a bit nervous. Not because I can’t explain my bad year, but because if I get into the details things are bound to get awkward.

      Reply
      1. New Bee

        Hope you’re still reading! In your case I might not probe because you have an upward trajectory after the gap vs. ongoing struggle. But if I did, “family issue” would be fine! I’d ask other questions about a time you struggled academically and what you did, why you chose to withdraw/retake a class, etc. What I’d be looking for is responsibility vs. blame, e.g., I’ve had people say, “X was the professor’s fault; she just didn’t like me”, which is a red flag. I can say more in the Friday OT if you’d like.

        Reply
      2. Chriama

        People are looking for an answer that makes sense. Doing badly at the beginning and then better later on makes sense – everyone knows the story of Rocky, even if they haven’t seen the movies. Doing badly at one specific point because of extenuating circumstances also makes sense – people can sympathise with an undiagnosed illness, or homelessness, or death. And that explanation also makes it clear that such failure isn’t likely to happen again, because the extenuating circumstances aren’t likely to happen again – either because it was a 1-time thing or because you’ve learned to deal with them and show a later pattern of success. But doing badly consistently and with no apparent pattern of improvement or explanation of extenuating circumstances is concerning. It doesn’t fit into a pre-arranged failure to success story. It isn’t clear that it was due to extenuating circumstances and therefore unlikely to be repeated. So it’s concerning. Not a dealbreaker, but worth asking about.

        Reply
  21. Caitie

    I teach college, so I am of several minds on the failing grades letter. Several of those thoughts have already been said, and I do think asking the candidate and/or their references makes the best sense. But one small point: students stay enrolled in courses they’re failing or are likely to fail for a lot of reasons, including needing a certain number of enrollment credits for financial aid. I often see students struggling (with the material or just the schedule–lots of absences for insurance) and think, “just withdraw before it goes on your transcript!!!” but I’ve come to learn that it’s often more complex than that.

    Reply
    1. Caitie

      Sorry, I meant “lots of absences for instance.” How embarrassing after I reprimanded my students for poor editing…

      Reply
    2. Duck Duck Møøse

      Or they won’t let you out of class. I was taking honors-level calculus, and was severely floundering. Most of my classmates had calc in high school, and had just missed testing out of the first level class, so it was being taught more as a refresher course, not set up for the complete neophyte. I went to the professor to have him sign off on a class transfer, to a regular calc class, and he wouldn’t do it. He insisted I’d do fine. I was a freshman, what did I know?

      I got a D. Ended up on academic probation. Thanks, prof. >:(
      Retook it, at the regular level, the next semester (I didn’t have to, but it was a matter of pride for me) and got an A. So there.

      Reply
    3. shep

      My major GPA was excellent, but my overall GPA was pretty terrible. I think I suffered from a healthy dose of lack of motivation (I was totally burnt out from overachieving in high school) and mild depression; I did not enjoy undergrad and wanted to get out as quickly as possible.

      If the candidate otherwise seems excellent for the position, I wouldn’t worry about their GPA at all.

      Reply
    4. I Before E

      Yep, I was on academic scholarship my first two years of college. My tuition was completely covered but ONLY if I had a certain number of credits and maintained a B average.

      I was getting a C in an economics class and I am not proud to admit it, but I cried in front of that professor about my scholarship and he bumped me up to a B. If I’d gotten that C, I would have lost the scholarship and most likely any support from my parents. I’m not sure I even would have finished school.

      Reply
  22. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

    OP3: maybe this is a cultural difference, but I’m surprised that someone’s college papers even show how many times a person has failed a test! Is this typical in the US? Mine certainly doesn’t! There is only one grade registered per course and it’s the most recent one, so there’s no way to know if the person had before that failed the exam, or passed with a lower grade and decided to try again. There is a date listed next to the grade, though, so that may give some clue if some basic course is passed at a surprisingly late point, but it’s not a certain indicator either. The Finnish university system gives a LOT of personal freedom: for example, there are general exam days and you can choose on your own what exams you want to try on which exam day. Also taking longer to graduate is extremely normal.

    My point with this explanation is that there is no universal model for college transcripts, at least not globally. If you ever consider to hire someone who has studied outside the US, the information you’re looking for may not even be on the transcript, and things may even otherwise be vastly different. If you want to know specific stuff about someone’s studies you need to ask exactly those things. I wouldn’t understand to offer that information automatically. (The only explanation I would give for my college grades is that in my particular study program, though the existing grades are 1 to 5, basically no one ever got a 4 or 5 in most courses, because such stict grading isn’t typical even here.)

    Reply
      1. Myrin

        Ha, that’s something I only very recently and by accident learned about the US system – that “failed classes” and “failed tests” are a different thing. Here, they are the same – you attend a course for a semester and at the end you write a “test”, meaning either taking an exam or writing a paper; the grade you receive for that is the only grade you get and it alone determines whether you failed the class or not (unless you can re-take the test).

        Reply
    1. HannahS

      It doesn’t show how many times they’ve failed a test, it shows if they’ve failed a course. The way it works generally is that if you leave a course before a certain day (which may be, say, half-way through the term), nothing is recorded on your transcript. After that day, the course will show up on your transcript. Whether or not the grade shown is only the most recent one depends on the school. Some will show all attempts, and others will only show the most recent one.

      Reply
      1. Mauri

        That’s so confusing! Aren’t a course grade and a test grade the same thing? Now I’ll spend the afternoon reading the Wikipedia page on the US school system to understand.
        Greetings from Europe!

        Reply
        1. blackcat

          No, in the US, it’s not all exams, generally.

          I teach lab science.
          Grading does as follows:
          50% exams (3 exams over the semester, I average those together)
          25% problem sets
          20% lab reports
          5% small in class assignments (in class quizzes with clickers, etc).

          This scheme allows a student who shows up to class and turns in all of the work to get a D, even if they fail most tests. But they need to do okay on tests to get a C, and well on tests to get a B (it is very hard to get an A in my class).

          Reply
          1. Word Turner

            In Europe, 100% of your course grade is your final examination which is often an oral exam, and you are taking about 15 courses in a semester, but fortunately you have about 6 weeks to do the final exams in all your courses, and each exam is offered a few times in case you have scheduling conflicts — and if you don’t have scheduling conflicts and you want then you can retake. And then when you’re happy with it, you get the teacher to write your grade down in your index book and then once you’ve got all the grades and signatures from your teachers you turn in your index book to the office.

            Reply
            1. Myrin

              I’m in Europe and apart from the 100% thing, this is basically not at all how we do it here. Heck, depending on where you are in my country, you will have procedures that vary a lot, so while I feel like there is a pretty strong US – Europe divide, there’s an almost equally strong one between various European countries or even just areas.

              Reply
              1. Word Turner

                You’re right, I really can only speak for the one university that I attended in its own time and its own place (though I think I can generalise to the rest of my country, and I know at least one of the neighbouring countries had a similar but not identical system. I don’t know if things have been computerised since then but I suspect they haven’t). I didn’t want to say which country in particular, but I should have said that I cannot speak for all of Europe.

                Reply
            2. MegaMoose, Esq

              Obnoxiously, even in US courses where the grade is largely or entirely based on a single exam (law school is generally like this), you have to retake the entire semester-long class if you fail. I’m sure that the fact that each class costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars to take has nothing to do with it.

              Reply
          2. Mauri

            Thank you (and to all other people that commented), so it’s similar to the UK system then. Totally different from the standard Italian one: you have your course, then after three months the exam session starts, you choose the day of the exam among the ones scheduled by the professor (generally 5-6 over a year) and do your written and/or oral exam and get your grade. If you fail you simply re-take the final test (often you can also refuse a grade that you don’t like!).
            Apparently is similar to the Finnish one described by the friend above (even the lots of freedom and the tendency to take longer to graduate), i didn’t know that.

            Reply
          3. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

            OK, now I see it! I’ve also done this type of courses but it’s rare. The most common version is just lectures + exam, and even the lectures aren’t usually mandatory – as long as you can pass the exam you get the study credits. Courses also vary in length and give different amounts of credits. I think those courses that have also other types of assignments than only exams are better for learning and you learn things “deeper” than just by reading for the exam, so I would like to see more of them!

            But even with those of our courses that have more assignments than just the exam, if you begin the course and never pass it, it won’t show up on any papers. I don’t think they register it in any official system that someone has been going to some lectures. The computer system that tracks the study process, only registers your existence on a course when you pass. So it’s different. I think your system is in many ways better because not everyone thrives with as much freedom as we have.

            Reply
      2. Miso

        Serious question: How do you pass or fail a course then?
        I only know the system someone mentioned above: you either just have to participate anyway and don’t get a grade, or you take a test or submit a paper in the end and that’s your grade for the course.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          In my school, if you withdrew after a certain date, you automatically failed (and that appeared on your transcript). If you withdrew earlier, it just showed that you withdrew.

          Reply
        2. Snow

          In the US, typically, the final exam only constitutes part of your overall grade in the course. During the course, in addition to attending lectures, you are given other assignments — papers, presentations, problem sets — which are graded. Those other grades typically contribute some percentage of the overall course grade.

          You also typically only get one chance to take the final exam. I would consider it extremely, unusually generous to be allowed to re-take it.

          University professors typically set their own grading breakdowns. They can set it up so that the final exam defines 100% of your grade, or 50%, or 25%, etc. This means you could fail the final but pass the class overall, or pass the final but fail the class overall.

          Once you’ve taken the final exam, your overall course grade is then computed and finalized. If you want a better grade, your only option is to retake the entire course the next time it’s offered.

          Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            I would consider it extremely, unusually generous to be allowed to re-take it.

            Suddenly I’m having flashbacks to my professors in grad school saying, “I don’t care if your grandmother dies, if you don’t notify the office and then miss the final, you will get a zero and fail the course!” A good friend from the same grad school received a scathing, page-long rant from a prof for the crime of asking to take the final early so she could get married.

            Reply
            1. Oryx

              Well, to be fair, weddings are something that can be planned and so she would have picked a date knowing it was during finals week.

              Reply
              1. student

                Seconded. Schools usually announce at the beginning of the year or several months ahead when finals week occurs, and make it very clear that you can’t reschedule an exam for vacation or other planned events.

                Reply
              2. Parenthetically

                The rest of the story is that at the beginning of the semester the prof specifically went out of his way to congratulate her on her engagement and tell her she should feel free to plan her wedding for any day and not to worry about class conflicts. She didn’t think it was necessary to get it in writing.

                Reply
        3. Lady Jay

          Seconding what Snow says. Many instructors will divvy the course grade up among homework assignments (stuff like answering questions about the book, or prepping a debate or discussion question for class), papers, projects, and tests that appear early in the semester, and regular quizzes to check comprehension.

          While it’s true that the US goes a bit berserk over assigning homework, especially in the lower grades, I like this system for college, as completing a variety of tests and assignments over the course of the semester allows students to develop their skill in an area and (especially for projects) encourages them to transfer their learning to a variety of situation. It’s also much less high-stakes than the European, one-test, one-grade model.

          Reply
        4. Uyulala

          There are graded assignments, quizzes, and tests that happen throughout the course. They are combined for the total grade.

          Reply
        5. LBK

          It’s up to the professor’s discretion. They can assign however many graded assignments/tests they want and your grade for the course is a combination of those grades (usually a weighted amount, e.g. your final exam might be 75% of your grade, 20% might be a paper and 5% might be class participation).

          There are courses that work the way you indicated – with just one test at the end that constitutes your entire grade for the course – but they’re pretty rare, I think. Most have at least two, the other being a midterm exam taken around the middle of the duration of the course.

          Reply
  23. Gaia

    I am glad no one ever asked to see my GPA. I did very poorly in nearly every class I took with few exceptions. Why? Because the courses bored me to no end and so I didn’t focus and didn’t do a lot of the work and you can only get so high of a grade by doing well on tests. That said, I know the material. I just could not be kept interested enough to get good grades.

    Reply
    1. Clewgarnet

      I’d want to know that a prospective employee found it that difficult to focus on work they found boring. No job is 100% interesting, and it would honestly be something of a red flag.

      Reply
      1. KHB

        Yes, this. Your professors aren’t there to entertain you, and neither is your employer. And your job at work isn’t to demonstrate that you “know the material” and call it a day – it’s to accomplish specific tasks to a high standard. Some of those tasks may be ones that you find boring. That’s life.

        Reply
        1. Gaia

          Which is why it is different between classes and work. I would never not do work at a job because it is dull as that has a real impact on my workplace. Not doing homework that contained work below my knowledge level and therefore was not intellectually challenging had no impact on my education (which is the ‘work’ of college).

          While my professors were not there to entertain me, they were there to challenge me and teach me. Many of them failed at this (for a myriad of reasons, almost none of which were their fault). Those that did challenge and teach me I did the work and got better grades. Those that did not, I didn’t do the work and still got adequate grades. Would I make the same decision today? Maybe. Would I ever do that in an actual job? Fundamentally not.

          Reply
          1. KHB

            I know it’s irrelevant to you what I think, but I still find this attitude unimpressive – maybe because I’m the offspring of a teacher and had it instilled in me early on that it’s a bad idea to assume you understand a teacher’s purpose better than the teacher does. There can be value in the routine practice of things that you think you already know, and an assignment may be designed to teach you something other than what it immediately seems.

            (I was in seventh grade when I complained to my mom that I shouldn’t have to waste my time drawing a lab diagram of a plant cell because I already knew what a plant cell looked like. “But you don’t know how to draw a lab diagram,” she said, “so get back upstairs and do your homework.”)

            Reply
            1. Gaia

              I actually don’t disagree with you and work that did that, I did. I am talking about math courses where I had mastered the topic in 9th grade but was expected to spend 2 hours doing repetitive work on it again and again years after I had begun using those concepts in far more complex ways. The most frustrating aspect was that my attempts to challenge myself were met with wall after wall. There is a deep failure in our education system (both standard and higher education) where those that need extra help are failed and those that need more challenge are failed.

              Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        A regular theme here–very few jobs are all fascinating all the time.

        I remember–sadly not the context so can’t link the reply–someone who worked in a ‘glamorous’ field and regularly met former interns from that field who complained about how their old company assigned them to do blecky XYZ rather than the real fun job of ABC. And the real job was XYZ most of the time. 95% if you were low down, maybe 60% if you were at the very top. No one was doing ABC most of the time, even though that was the fun visible enviable part of the job.

        Reply
        1. Gaia

          Very true, but there is output to all work being done which isn’t true when homework isn’t intellectually challenged. It becomes busy work. I don’t do busy work (and I’ve never held a job that required true busy work of employees – and that would be a huge red flag to me if they did as they would be wasting their money).

          Reply
      3. Gaia

        I should clarify. I found it boring because it was being taught below my level. I could do the work and when I did it, I did very well. I actively made the decision not to do the homework because it bored me and taught me nothing I did not already know.

        Now, would I make that same decision at work? Of course not. Because the work I do at work has actual results that impact the workplace. Homework in college did not. I still passed the classes without doing it, which is different than the OP, the consequences were just a lower GPA.

        Reply
    2. Temperance

      FWIW, to me, that would be a problem. I was a high achiever in high school with minimal effort, and I did not do as well in college because I never worked for anything. I’m embarrassed by this, though, and I would not ever dream of defending it.

      If I interviewed someone, and they gave this explanation, I would find them to be lazy and would think that they might not try hard at their job if parts are boring.

      Reply
      1. Gaia

        I guess I am not embarrassed by it because when my Professors challenged me and taught the courses at the appropriate level, I was actively engaged and when they didn’t, I wasn’t. It isn’t defense, it is reality. That is what happened and I’m glad a mediocre GPA didn’t hold me back in my career simply because I wasn’t challenged.

        I also draw a big line between coursework and work-work and I opt not to work for employers that are incapable of making a distinction.

        Reply
    3. LaurenB

      That’s… not an explanation of why you’re exceptional, that’s almost literally everyone who did fine but not great in university. You didn’t work very hard, you didn’t get remarkable grades, life goes on. Very few people earn extraordinary grades just by being brilliant, and I would bet that most employers who are looking for graduates with high grades believe grades correlate with work ethic.

      Reply
      1. Gaia

        I did not say I was exceptional. I think this is happening to a lot of students, particularly those that don’t require hand holding type learning.

        I agree that employers looking for high grades believe that correlates to work ethic. I disagree which is why is why I’m glad that did not hold me back. I believe plenty of people get great grades with poor work ethic and I believe plenty of people with great work ethic get adequate or even poor grades. I think trying to make that correlation assumes everyone is on the same level, learns the same way and is being equally challenged and that is untrue. I am glad I have the option to weed out employers who believe this is true.

        Reply
    4. Yorick

      When students do the bare minimum they need to pass, that means they never push themselves to improve and never gain skills beyond those they already had when they started college. To me, that makes their degree pretty much worthless.

      Reply
  24. Dr Pepper

    OP 3 – When I went to college I got through my first semester with flying colors and straight A’s. During April of my second semester I had the following happen: I walked in on my boyfriend of 4 years having sex with his best (male) friend & as a result found out that he was both gay and had been cheating on me for the entirety of our relationship; my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer; and I was literally hit by a car and suffered two cracked ribs and a concussion. In retrospect I know that I could have communicated with my school and professors and either dropped the classes or seen about a continuation, but I was 18, away from home for the first time in my life, and totally overwhelmed. Instead of dealing with it, I just left and went home to help take care of my Mom. I failed five classes as a result.

    I was fortunate enough to be allowed back but when I tried to retake the first of the classes I’d failed I wound up doing miserably in it and found myself crying and feeling depressed whenever I tried to study for it and whoops, I failed it again – while getting A’s in all my other classes. When I talked it out with the professor of the class he pointed out to me that it might be bringing up all the things I’d gone through the semester I failed it the first time and with my mother’s death (bless psych professors). I worked through it in therapy and ultimately got an A in that class and all the others I’d had to retake. I graduated with an official 3.9 GPA and I honestly feel that having to retake those classes and deal with my mental damage around them helped me grow stronger as a person and figure out how to overcome setbacks and obstacles.

    My point is this: sh*t happens. A speckled transcript doesn’t inherently make your potential hire a bad choice or option – I have been very successful post college and before I started working for myself I was a good employee. It never would have occurred to me that putting down my (hard fought for!) GPA was a deception in any way and I still don’t think it would have been and I would bet that your potential hire isn’t trying to deceive you either.

    Reply
    1. Julia

      I’m so sorry you had such a hard time. I hope you’re much better now; you certainly seem like a really compassionate human.
      I quit grad school due to various physical and mental health issues and I guess a quarter life crisis, thought I’d never try again (academia is a breeding ground for mental illnesses after all), but circumstances happened and my husband and I ended up moving back to that town for his job and I thought I’d try again. My professor welcomed me back warmly, but boy did I have nervous breakdowns about reliving that trauma. I’m still at the beginning of my first new (but overall second cause they kept my transcripts) semester and so far doing well, but I can’t stop and think about it.

      Reply
  25. It's-a-me

    I once did a job so efficiently, I lost it.

    Was hired on for a temporary role within the company, meant to be there for 6 months. I finished the first project I was working on in 2 weeks (expected to be 6 weeks) and they subsequently decided in their almighty wisdom that if it was that easy, they’d just get my supervisory/training person to do her own job AND my new position.

    She recently quit because they were basically expecting her to work 12 hours a day, with many ‘last minute’ or ‘overnight’ things being assigned to her. I am so happy for her getting out of that department/job, and I will never go back there myself.

    Reply
    1. MegaMoose, Esq

      My saving grace in terms of being over-efficient is that in the kind of temp (contract) work I do, the slower people are laid off if we get ahead of schedule. I feel bad for them, but at least the higher performers are rewarded with more hours of mind-numbing but remunerative labor.

      Reply
  26. Sue Wilson

    1) Decline gracefully. It’s not and shouldn’t be awkward to say “no thanks,” even if you feel for them. And I know sometimes the comments can get to “nobody touch anybody at work ever!” but I don’t think I’m overstepping in saying that if you’re going to engage in a tradition with someone, you a) make sure they are cool with that tradition in that context, b) want to participate, and c) you understand that they can decline. I know the OP feels like declining might make it awkward, but it’s awkward because the BF assumed some emotional engagement in this practice on the OP’s part AND that he would recognize his position in it. That’s bad form. I’m not saying it’s the level of rudeness that needs redress, especially with young people or in closed cultures in general, but I think interaction with people would be a lot smoother and less prone to awkwardness, if we were used to people asking/reliably gauging interest before assuming participation, especially for cultural stuff.

    Reply
  27. Sue Wilson

    #3: This is precisely the type of thing I’m afraid of. When I’m at work, no one can fault my work ethic. But if you were to look at my grades in school, and ask me to explain them, I would have to a) either tell you I was suffering from mostly untreated anxiety and depression and post-concussion issues, which I would not want to do as they are frankly ongoing and, you know, need money I don’t have to treat and WOULD NEED A JOB with good healthcare to have, or admit that I spent a great deal of time (sleeping or anxiously trolling the internet in bouts of insomnia) not writing the essays I was supposed to write, which makes me look lazy. I’ll figure out how to explain how writing specifically academic essays are not in my strong point, but I fully expect people to think that the mental stuff is an excuse or that I’m hiding something character defect.

    Reply
    1. Yorick

      You could say that you were dealing with some health problems. You could also say that at that time you had not mastered time management and writing skills, but you learned these by struggling through some classes.

      Reply
    2. Queen of the File

      I worry about this too. Some of my low grades and dropped classes were due to undiagnosed ADHD (and the anxiety/depression that resulted). I don’t really want to tell a prospective employer about this, even though I am much better at coping now. Fortunately it seems pretty rare that I’ve had to supply transcripts for job prospects! The two times I’ve done it I’ve still been offered the job.

      Reply
  28. MW

    OP#4: Perhaps best to say your name is “incorrect” on the plaque when asking for it to be fixed, to avoid nitpickers saying “No, the *spelling* is right!”

    Reply
    1. MegaMoose, Esq

      This is how I’ve handled the same issue in the past (my last name is prone to spacing, capitalization, and (less frequently) spelling errors). It’s been successful more often than not, but some people really do not consider spacing and capitalization to be worth correcting. It drives me bonkers!

      Reply
  29. GT

    There was a misspelling on a plaque that I had to get fixed in my admin days. It was a really inexpensive fix. I suppose it depends on the style of the plaque, though.

    Reply
  30. Channel Z

    OP4, it happens to me a lot. On an official plaque, it is worth having it corrected. I also have a problem with people mispronouncing my first name. The problem is, people don’t often say my name, and definitely don’t spell it in conversation. So people have it wrong in their head for months before I know they say it wrong, and then it’s hard to fix. I have given up with most people, my neighbors don’t say it right, some at work get it wrong still after years but I’m working on that.

    Reply
  31. AB

    #OP1 I think this is more sad than weird. It’s not unusual for two people to have unbalanced views of their relationship and while you see her as strictly a co-worker she may have huge amount of respect and admiration for you. As her boss she looks to you for approval in work related matters, she may aspire to be like you one day, and see you has someone who has helped and supported her, so it’s not absurd for her to maybe transfer some father issues on to you.

    That said you need to set the boundaries now and just say that it’s not your place to ‘give permission’. It may feel harmless and compassionate to give permission but that will lead to you figuring out how to say no to walking her down the aisle or having a bigger role in her wedding than is normal for a co-worker.

    If the boyfriend must ask anyone he should ask her mother who actually raised her! But I wouldn’t suggest this, or get into a discussion about sexism as you don’t want to be drawn into it at all.

    Reply
    1. The Expendable Redshirt

      Why not suggest that he ask permission from her mother? As a parent, Mom seems like the best person to ask.

      Reply
  32. Ruth (UK)

    4. I have a less common spelling of an otherwise not too uncommon surname (Think like Alison vs Allison or Smith vs Smyth) which is regularly misspelled the more common way. I personally wouldn’t ask to have the plaque corrected if it was me, as I value avoiding any awkwardness above having my name be correctly spelled (I had my name wrong on my till login for 2 years in a store I worked in once). However, you should mention it if it is something that matters to you, and people should understand why it does

    Reply
    1. MegaMoose, Esq

      I’m big on avoiding awkwardness, too. My name is spaced incorrectly on my drivers’ license and I haven’t gotten around to having it fixed in over a decade. Also, I’m kind of lazy.

      Reply
  33. that guy

    #1 This is actually a bit creepy. Tell him you’re her boss, not her father, and as long as it doesn’t influence her work, any decisions that she makes as an adult, is none of your business. Then tell her the same thing.

    Reply
  34. Susan

    #1 – Well, as the employer of the bride, you pay her salary, so it’s like you’re paying for the wedding…

    Reply
  35. GermanGirl

    #2 Ask your efficient employee what they’d like to do, they might surprise you with things like “I want to clean up the database.” “I want to learn to write some Excel macros that take care of this boring task that we have to do every week.” Things that you usually live with because they don’t annoy you too much but if you had time you would take care of it so they don’t annoy you in the future.
    If your efficient employee has no such wishes then congratulations on having a toolchain that works for you.

    Another idea is to suggest that they might like to crosstrain everybody else’s tasks. Their benefit is that it gives them lots of experience and a great overview, which will help them move up in the company should they wish to and will also look good on their resume. Your benefit is that you now have someone who can help out when the need arises and you’ve just raised your truck factor.

    Reply
    1. AndersonDarling

      If the company has tuition reimbursement, they could work towards an online degree. We have seasonal workloads and many people work on higher education in the off season.

      Reply
      1. Jessica

        They could also take a range of MOOC online courses through Coursera, Canvas, or edX. I wish I had time to take an industry-relevant online course during the work day!

        Reply
    2. Corky's wife Bonnie

      That’s a great suggestion, and it was done to me. When I started my current job, they gave me a task, I did it, told them I was done and asked for the next one. They were flabbergasted, and I seriously couldn’t figure out why, until another employee told me the past people in my position were absolute nightmares. So, they asked me if there was something I would like to do in the down time between projects, and I wanted to learn more about the industry as a whole so I found an online course such as…”Teapot Making Essentials” which was a broad overview of the industry. I enjoyed it, and I was able to learn what some of the buzz words of the industry so I had a better understanding in meetings. I also cleaned up and re-organized the mailroom which was a total disaster area. It was a dumping ground for forms and documents that were 10 years or more outdated. So I got permission and dumped a lot of stuff and after I was done it was clean and you could actually walk in there!

      Reply
    3. turquoisecow

      I don’t know if I was necessarily super-efficient, but I was constantly asking my boss, who was over-worked to the extreme, if I could have more work, or help him with some projects. He responded by occasionally giving me some work, but spending an insane amount of time explaining things to me, even things I already knew (which I figured was because he didn’t know what I knew and didn’t know). Even easy things, he couldn’t just hand them to me, he had to precede it with a ten minute explanation of what it was and why he hadn’t done it himself. I’d finish it in only slightly more time than it took him to explain it to me.

      Or, he’d complain about all the work he had to do, but when I offered to help, he said that he didn’t have time to teach me things. Basically, he was afraid to pass on some work and possibly make himself obsolete.

      Definitely agree. If someone had asked me what I wanted to take on, I would have had a few answers right away of projects that he was managing and I could easily have picked up. Nobody ever asked me, though, and my repeated attempts to take matters into my own hands obviously failed. Sigh.

      Reply
  36. LucyUK

    For #3, I have a bit of an issue with the framing “You might find out that they were dealing with a serious health issue during that time or going through a family crisis. Or you might find out that they spent most of their college years drunk, who knows.”

    I spent my college years drunk BECAUSE I was dealing with serious health issues during that time. I’d been experiencing with symptoms from undiagnosed & untreated bipolar disorder from the age of 12 or so, and was using alcohol as a primary coping mechanism by my mid-teens. At college I was 18 (legal drinking age where I live) and out of my (extremely emotionally abusive) parents’ house for the first time – not only had they mostly ignored my illness, my dad had actively blocked several attempts on my part to seek treatment while I was still a teenager (guess which side of the family the genetic mental illness comes from…), so I had zero support network and zero coping skills other than drinking when I found myself on my own for the first time.

    Alcohol is one of the most readily-available mind-altering substances in society, and although I wasn’t using it in a healthy way, it was helpful to some degree – drinking let me talk about my feelings at times when I couldn’t do that sober, it gave me a break from depression and social anxiety (a temporary and ultimately unhelpful break at best, but still a break) and it was a socially acceptable way of channelling my self-destructive impulses (somehow throwing up or passed out drunk is more socially acceptable than other visible forms of self-harm).

    I’m sure there are people who knew me then but didn’t know what was going on who assumed I was just a party girl or couldn’t control myself around alcohol, and that probably looked like a fair assessment on the surface – some of them would assume I was someone who was just drunk all the time for no good reason, rather than someone who was dealing with some really heavy stuff that I was totally unequipped to be handling on my own.

    It’s a small thing, but alcohol use to the point where it’s interfering with your studies is often a symptom of those more-socially-acceptable reasons for having bad grades from college (like family/personal problems or illness), rather than a different, less-palatable excuse for the same outcome.

    Reply
    1. Yorick

      This is definitely true, but it’s also true that young students who are just gaining freedom will party and stuff so much that they don’t do well in school.

      Reply
    2. Jessica

      Thank you for sharing! This was very interesting to read. I agree that it’s important to remember that people don’t do self-destructive things for the hell of it – there is usually an underlying reason, be it a mental health issue, family issue, difficult childhood, financial/legal struggles, or some other struggle. And also, *everyone* has a struggle of their own. So I’m big on giving people the benefit of the doubt and giving people a chance, rather than writing people off.

      Reply
    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      This is a bit “everyone can’t have sandwiches” though (from the commenting rules). Plenty of people drink in college simply because they like to drink in college. (I did.)

      Reply
  37. Akcipitrokulo

    OP4… my Scottish surname starts capital M, lowercase *superscript* c, capital letter. I got it amended on a certificate where they hadn’t superscripped the c. So yeah, it’s not an issue to ask for it to be changed!

    Reply
      1. Hrovitnir

        McWhatever is old school? Is that unusual in the US? Because McName and MacName names are fairly common in my experience in NZ.

        Of course, my friend is a D’Name and she has all sorts of trouble with it, including having her name filed under the letter after the apostrophe (wut).

        Reply
        1. FDCA In Canada

          I think fposte was referring to the superscript specifically–McBlah is pretty common, but I don’t remember the last time I saw someone who specifically had the “c” superscripted!

          Reply
        2. fposte

          Yes, it’s the superscript that is old school. I think I saw it on a few mid-century signs in my youth but it had disappeared from newspapers and such by then. And as Clewgarnet notes there’s the other version where you just get an apostrophe. (Now I want there to be a Clan MacLady so they can use M’Lady.)

          Reply
      2. Akcipitrokulo

        Not sure… if that’s the little dot under the c, we specifically don’t :)

        Never saw it as old school …. just irritated tech doesn’t deal easily with it!

        (Superscript is best way to describe it but it’s more top justified ;) )

        Reply
    1. Lynn Whitehat

      I was once nearly disenfranchised after someone at the county office decided my voter registration should be “Minerva Mac Gonagall”, and my license showing “Minerva MacGonagall” therefore didn’t match. It took several tries to get it straightened out.

      Reply
      1. Jessica

        I also have the weird issue with the space added into my last name all the time. For example, Mac Crusty. I also get Maccrusty, McCrustee, and MaCrusty (omitting the first c).

        Reply
  38. Lady Jay

    #4: Capitalization IS a big deal! I say, ask for the correction. My own last name has a space and a capital letter in the middle of it (think Dutch names), and I think it’s cool, and it would be annoying if someone forgot the capital.

    Reply
  39. Roscoe

    #3 If you feel misled, I’m curious what you expect him to say. You even said that based on the way the college calculated the GPA, he wasn’t lying. So did you expect him to give you a lower one, when that isn’t true either? And like people have said, what does it matter? Hell, even if he did just party all freshman year, that has nothing to do with right now. He clearly retook the classes and passed them. I think you’re being a bit unrealistic here

    Reply
  40. Delta Delta

    #4 – I say ask for the correction. My middle name was misspelled on my law degree and I was crushed when I saw it.
    All my classmates took pictures of themselves holding their newly-conferred degrees while wearing their caps and gowns at graduation and I didn’t feel like I could do that because of the misspelling. When I asked for a new one I was told, “but that’s a way to spell your middle name” (think something like “Kristine” vs. “Christine”), and I had to say, “but that’s not how I spell it.” It was a little bit of a standoff until they agreed to get me a fresh one.

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      Ugh. This is why I check and double check the spelling of everyone’s name on any sort of official document. It’s such an insult when people can’t spell your name correctly.

      Reply
  41. Detective Amy Santiago

    LW#1 – Please take this opportunity to educate the boyfriend on the fact that women are no longer property who are owned by men and the only person whose permission he needs to marry your employee is hers. Because seriously, this squicks me hardcore.

    Also, after the proposal, you should mention it to your report in case it changes her answer to the question.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      The issue isn’t liking/loathing a tradition; the issue is that the tradition is a personal family one that shouldn’t come up at work.

      And I’m not a fan of this tradition. But even if everyone uniformly LOVED this tradition, it wouldn’t be appropriate to put “boss” in place of “parent, or parent equivalent.” If the boss were a woman, and the employee a man who had grown up in foster care and sincerely viewed the boss as the only positive parent-type figure in his life, an SO asking her permission to marry said employee would be way out of bounds. Yet totally not patriarchal.

      Reply
    2. AD

      Please take this opportunity to educate the boyfriend on the fact that women are no longer property

      Sorry, but this isn’t the OP’s purview *at all*. He should politely decline, and that should be the end of it. In letter after letter, we advise managers to maintain a discreet distance between themselves and their reports for myriad reasons. I’m shocked to see so many people today advocating for this manager to lecture or proselytize to their direct report about something that’s this personal. Stay out of it.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        So much yes to this! It’s weird for the boyfriend to ask you, and it would be weird for you to lecture him about it.

        Reply
  42. Audiophile

    #1 is a very tough and delicate situation. I grew up without a father, but my mother has brothers. I know anyone one of them would be glad to give their blessing and walk me down the aisle if it was something important to me.

    While I’ve certainly had bosses that I admired and wanted to learn all I could from them, I’ve never viewed them as a replacement for a parent. Most of my bosses have been women, and the ones that were men, usually weren’t old enough for me to really view them as a father figure. Couple that with the fact that most came to me for advice.

    Either way, even if I viewed a boss as a father figure, I wouldn’t be asking my boyfriend to get permission from him.

    I think the best way for OP to handle this is to say they’re not comfortable giving permission and being that involved. I wouldn’t be surprised if the boyfriend misunderstood.

    I’m really gooin we get an update on this one.

    Reply
  43. CM

    I think the answer to both #2 and #3 is “talk to them.” For the person who failed a bunch of classes, I think they should have proactively brought it up when they knew that the potential employer requested their college transcript. But since they didn’t, it’s worth having a conversation about it. And for the efficient employee, ask if they have any ideas for what they’d like to do with their time, and give them some possibilities (if more PTO is one of the possibilities, say that explicitly, because I think many people would not think they could ask for that).

    For #4, something similar happened to me. I basically said what Alison suggested and they apologized and fixed it. If they didn’t, I would have been really annoyed, because as you said, what’s the point in honoring you if they can’t bother to get your name right?

    Reply
  44. Ms O'Name

    OP 4, I have been in a similar situation! My sympathies. The important thing is to act quickly and be very, very straightforward about it. As if there could never possibly be a question about the correctness of your name being paramount.

    (And congratulations on the plaque.)

    Reply
  45. (Different) Rebecca

    My school had a system where you could get “academic renewal” and have your grades wiped from your GPA calculation and but keep the credits, if you’d been gone for three years or more and had an excellent first semester back. I went from five straight semesters of Ds and Fs, to three and a half years of As, A+s, and the honors program–graduating summa cum laude. And then an MA and a PhD. It’s a good thing–I’m a success story for the school. You should ask the employee, because maybe they have a similar story.

    Reply
  46. Jessesgirl72

    Coincidentally enough, Dear Abby has a letter today about how the “permission” to marry of the old days has turned into the “blessing” of more modern times, and that blessing isn’t exactly the same.

    I’m confused as to why the OP didn’t just give his blessing though, since it doesn’t matter to him and he said he wished them well. Yes, it’s weird (so weird!) but the expedient thing is to just give it and move on. If the employee later is asking him to walk her down the aisle or anything like that, then, of course, he’d have to have the awkward conversation, but that hasn’t happened yet. And if he felt dishonest, he could have just left out the “Buts” and not mentioned blessing or even given a “yes” answer, but simply and only said that he wished them every happiness, and then been really busy and have to end the conversation.

    OP, if you’re uncomfortable by the fact that your employee seems to care more for you than you do her, and is miscategorizing your relationship, I’d say just remember that someone who doesn’t have a father doesn’t really know how those relationships are. It’s not always the intimate relationship you’re picturing, on top of that.

    Reply
    1. MuseumChick

      He probably didn’t just give his blessing because it crosses professional boundaries. Apparently, his employee feels they have a much closer relationship than in reality and as her boss, it’s part of his job to maintain clear boundaries between work and personal life. If he did give his blessing it would send her a message the he IS a father figure and not a boss.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        This. It’s weird to give your blessing to your employee’s marriage. Or bar/bat mitzvah, or confirmation. Maybe you give them your blessing to take off early Tuesday and Thursday for professional development classes, or to apply to a different division within the company.

        Reply
      2. Student

        Would it really? Where do you worry this particular slippery slope leads, exactly?

        To expectations that the boss pay for the wedding as the “father of the bride”? That’s a pretty far trip away from where they are.

        To the employee having passionate debates with the boss over whether the thermostat is set correctly? To the employee trying a little too hard to get the boss to like her and approve of her work? Mmm, those seem like pretty normal workplace problems in the end.

        Reply
  47. The Other Katie

    Re #3: I failed several mathematics classes in undergrad, which didn’t affect my GPA overmuch because I retook the classes and soldiered through. Penalising someone for failing and then trying again and succeeding seems quite harsh, especially since they are not lying about their GPA and did not mislead you about this.

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      I agree. I would argue that this person is BETTER equipped to be a good employee by learning how to fail, recalculate, and succeed. Those who were always academically gifted and didn’t have to try so hard are often met with a rude awakening in the working world.

      Reply
      1. The Other Katie

        Exactly. The experience of failure is actually quite valuable, especially when it’s in a context where you do have the option of trying again and recovering. Someone who took so many classes again to drag their GPA back up shows real tenacity and determination.

        Reply
  48. Scarecrow

    #1 There are a lot of awkward situations on this site that’re just “what?” or “I can’t believe this.” This one has a big tinge of sadness too. Two of the people my grandfather managed throughout his career considered him a father figure, but… it was a mutual situation. In both cases, they were good friends right up until he died.

    Even if it doesn’t feel like the “nice” response, I think this advice is absolutely right. This is a sticky situation and a case where it seems like boundaries really need to be maintained.

    (Not even going to comment on the whole absurd idea of “asking for someone’s hand.” Well. I guess I already commented on it by using that adjective.)

    Reply
  49. Tazer Face

    #3, my sister didn’t do so well in her first year or two of college, because at that point she simply didn’t care enough about school to put in the effort. Then, somehow, she found a passion for what is now her current major, and now she does put in the work because a) she cares about the material and b) she wants a career in the field. She also bothered to re-take at least some of the courses she failed, even though they weren’t relevant to her major, because she wanted to increase her GPA. But man, it would really stink if employers rejected her because they found out she didn’t do well in her freshman year. I mean, it was years ago at this point! A lot of people flounder or just party too hard at first, and then get a wake up call and proceed to get it together.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      I think a major concern for OP3 was that the classes were scattered throughout their time at school. Messing up their first year, then getting serious and figuring out how to stay on top of things, is a track it’s much easier to figure out at a glance, then shrug off. A former pattern of scattered Ds and Fs could be any number of things that would not reflect poorly on the applicant’s ability to do the job now; they might also reflect being scattered and poor at managing their time on long deadlines, or easily bored and checking out when so.

      Reply
      1. The Other Katie

        It could also indicate that they weren’t so good at one particular subject, but kept trying anyway because they wanted a particular major that demanded it. The only way to really know what happened is to ask.

        Reply
    2. Tazer Face

      Looking at some of the other comments here, it looks as though it’s pretty normal for colleges to let students retake a failed course, and replace the failing grade with a passing one when it’s achieved, so for all we know, many people with awesome GPAs have failed courses and then retook them.

      Reply
  50. Yorick

    #1 is about the weirdest thing I have ever heard. I was very close with my dissertation chair, and sort of think of him as my dad. I probably wouldn’t want to marry someone he didn’t like. But I for sure would not want my fiance to get his blessing before proposing.

    Reply
  51. B

    #2 – For the efficient employee I would also double-check that they are efficient. Meaning that they are getting the work done in a regular workday, i.e. not staying late, working on the weekends, working through lunch, etc. If those things are occurring let them know they should do their work during the workday and leave that time for their extracurricular activities instead. Some people like to get all of the work done and not leave time for themselves. Just something else to look at.

    Reply
  52. MommyMD

    I got a couple of Fs on my university transcripts replaced by As for a high GPA. I was very sick during my pregnancy and stopped going to class and it was too late to drop. It had no bearing on anything.

    Reply
  53. MommyMD

    I think it’s OK for Boss to say “of course you have my blessing” and move on. Even though it’s weird. Employee definitely is more personally invested in relationship with Boss than he is. But it can’t hurt to be gracious.

    Reply
  54. Beezus

    #2 – If your employee is so much more efficient than his predecessors, it might make sense to check on his work quality. My reaction to this is completely colored by my own experience, but I once had a coworker who was so motivated by being able to cross things off her task list and call them done, that she pretty much never did her due diligence to make sure the information she started with was correct, or that the problem solving she did actually solved the original problem and didn’t just bandaid a symptom. She was *very* efficient and was highly praised for her output, but she was not thorough and we had a lot more recurring issues because she often didn’t truly fix things the first, second, or third time. It was hard to work alongside her and hear her output praised while also dealing with the fallout from her “efficiency”.

    Reply
    1. Scarecrow

      That’s a really interesting point that I hadn’t even considered. It does sound really tough on morale to put up with that.

      This sounds like a good idea to pursue–and if OP does find that his quality is great, maybe that could be a jumping off point for finding other skills he could develop or apply to other projects?

      Reply
    2. AP

      YES! This ^^ quality matters, but it can be overlooked by a manager who is impressed by the pace. assumptions…

      Reply
  55. Anon Guy

    If they were otherwise qualified, and it was an entry level position, I’d absolutely hire the candidate who had failed courses but then had the ambition to continually retake them until they got it right. I’ve had people like that before–they seem like they’re never going to learn something but then they plug away and eventually it clicks. It can be a bit inefficient up front, but the reward is a hardworking employee who is generally appreciative of the effort put in to helping them learn something.

    Reply
  56. HR Veep

    OP 4 — If you have an employer who cares enough to recognize milestones, I’d bet they care enough to realize that it matters to spell your name right! Please ask. I had a long-term employee once who lost 3 plaques in a house fire (she’s received them at 5, 10, and 15 years) when she returned to work, she immediately asked if they could be replaced because they meant a lot to her. Gosh, the fact that this was something at the top of her list after losing EVERYTHING in a fire? I wish all of our employees were that proud of their jobs! Congrats to you on your milestone!

    Reply
  57. Professor Ronny

    I teach at a university that allows students to retake a course and only use the higher grade in their GPA calculation. We call it “grade forgiveness.” Having a high grade indicates that the student learned the material in their courses. That is what you should care about, do they know their stuff. How many times it took them to learn the material should not matter to you, the high GPA indicates they now know it.

    It also indicates they can stick with things and are willing to try and try until they get it right. I would forget about it. They were honest about their GPA and the transcript confirms that. They have the knowledge the degree confers. That should be all you care about.

    Reply
    1. Huddled over tea

      School is about effort though. If you did badly, but you try again and do better, that’s great.

      Work isn’t that lenient. Sometimes I need someone to know something now, not six months later. If I put someone on a project and they have to screw it up three times before they get it right, I would rather they…. not.

      Reply
  58. Bertha

    #2.. man. I have been this efficient worker in so many jobs. When I first started at my current employer almost six years ago, there were so many things to fix, but after a while, I just ran out of things to do. But it seemed like whenever I went to my boss, she’d tell me what NOT to do. Don’t do this, it’s below your level, don’t let the admin staff know that you have experience in X because you’ll do it all the time.. don’t spend your time on this.. yet, she never told me what TO spend time on. Well, that’s not entirely true — she told me what to spend time on, but I was usually already done with it. She had this strange fear of overloading me, even though that has absolutely never been a problem — I was bored! The point is, I just started becoming a lot less efficient because I saw the reward for efficiency was extreme boredom.

    Flash forward a few years, and she thinks I’m so wonderfully efficient, she promotes me, and hires someone to work under me. Nevermind the fact that I had asked for MORE work, nevermind the fact that I said numerous times that I absolutely did not need help.

    So now, I’m managing .. you guessed it, a very bright and efficient person. But considering my workload hasn’t increased, I often have nothing to give her. She has been good at “making things up,” but I just struggle with it. Looking at the advice from AAM, though, I feel like a lot of that kind of flies in the face of our work culture here. There are so many things that I would like to do for her, but I know my own boss would say “nope.” One of the biggest things my boss has emphasized about our company culture is that they want people to “stay in your lane,” and while frankly I’d love to let her leave early.. I know that wouldn’t fly. There isn’t really any “stretch” work I can give her. Even when we’ve been added on to projects for other departments, I pretty much have to fight for us to be as involved as we are, because my boss will say that it’s “not our job.” It’s very frustrating, and very stifling.

    I feel awful because I know how my employee feels, but other than encouraging her to go to conferences and maybe some online continuing education courses, there isn’t a heck of a lot I can do.

    On the bright side.. this advice made me pinpoint some of the issues that I have with my company’s culture, and what I need to avoid in my job hunt.

    Reply
  59. Sarasaurus

    OP #2 – I failed an entire college semester, due to a combination of family crisis and mental health issues. Even though I have a track record of being a good employee and high performer in the workplace, those F’s still haunt me. To this day, I don’t apply to positions that require transcripts, even ones that I think I would be great at. I would recommend not putting so much stake in grades, especially if this person is otherwise a strong candidate. In my experience, grades and work performance aren’t strongly correlated.

    Reply
  60. Amber Rose

    There’s a funny double standard here with school and work. Because you absolutely can’t say or imply that anything you work on at school is equivalent to working on things for a job. They’re totally different. But for some reason, not doing schoolwork means you won’t do work?

    No. In school, I had no idea what I’d be good at. I flunked out of two majors before I figured out what I could do. High school doesn’t even prepare you for deciding on something that huge. I got A’s in high school physics. I couldn’t even pass physics 1000. And then there were the general liberal education requirements, which made me take X number of classes outside my focus area of science. So I had to battle through a tough science double major, and also take a few [expletive] art classes and a couple philosophy classes.

    School is ridiculous. At work, nobody hires me to do office stuff then insists that I learn how to assemble teapots and also sell them in three languages and be able to recite the entire history of teapot creation. It’s ridiculous that we are so strongly against a work culture that eats all our free time, but if you go to school and you struggle with things you weren’t even sure you’d be good at, or struggle because you’ve spent four years living on ramen noodles and studying until 3 am and your sanity is slipping, you’re a slacker.

    The pressures of school do crush some people, and they did really ugly things to my health. Don’t judge a person based on tough times, or for struggling while they are a teenager. Given the number of people who don’t even finish a degree, can’t you just be happy with that?

    /soapbox

    Reply
    1. Alton

      School can also be less forgiving sometimes when it comes to finding your niche. The only reason I didn’t have a 4.0 was because of the engineering classes I took before I accepted that I have zero aptitude or interest in engineering.

      With work, having a couple stinker jobs where the workplace sucked or where you just weren’t a good fit can affect you going forward if you need to use people from those jobs as references, but eventually some of these jobs fade into the past. And I think it can be easier to explain that you left a job because you realized you weren’t a great fit than it can be to explain why you got bad grades in some classes. There can be this idea that doing well is just a matter of studying a lot or being intelligent. But I can’t really explain why I was able to do well in math classes but hit a wall when applying those concepts to engineering problems. I studied a lot. I got A’s in other subjects. I thought I understood it all. I just sucked at it.

      Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        I was like that with computer science. I can’t program for the life of me. I just don’t get it. I understand the concepts and I remember the commands, and I’m well enough at math, but I can’t apply these ideas into creating even very basic programs.

        Sometimes, a person just isn’t good at a thing.

        Reply
  61. Whoopsy

    Why am I suddenly so afraid that the boyfriend from #1 is the guy who wrote in a while ago complaining about when his girlfriend went out drinking with her boss on a business trip? About how the boss was “encroaching on [their] relationship”?

    Reply
  62. Alton

    With grades, a lot depends on context. Failing multiple courses over the course of one’s academic career can definitely be a warning sign, and I’ve definitely seen students who just didn’t seem to have their act together. They’d retake the same course multiple times and keep failing for the same reasons, like not turning in work. But there can also be other explanations. Maybe most of the failed courses follow a common theme, and the student struggled with one topic (like foreign language or math) that was a gen ed requirement. Maybe they realized belatedly that the major they’d chosen wasn’t a great fit, but they were close to finishing and wanted to get the degree.

    I think asking them is the best course of action. If they’re a serious contender and seem like a good fit, I think it would be good to give them a chance to address it.

    In any case, if their GPA is accurate according to how the school calculated it, then they didn’t lie.

    Reply
  63. jjyork

    #1 – this is the 21st century. They are living together. The female employee has agency over her own life. The boyfriend’s request seems odd in light of these facts alone.
    #2 – request that he slow down to ensure details are not overlooked, and that he does not burn himself out with all of the overachieving. Sometimes energy like this takes care of itself when the people expending it realize that the over achievement will not get rewarded differently than if they simply met deadlines.

    Reply
  64. Anon-mama

    OP1, Alison’s advice is spot on. But I am also thinking of your employee, and how interactions might be if it’s true that she really does have an unrequited familial affection for you (I think the character of the texts you saw might help you gauge that). So it might be hard on her if she eventually learns you noped out of this situation. Obviously, keep up your kind and professional relationship with her. I don’t know if there is any other advice for if you should let her know you know of the feelings and should do anything else.

    Reply
  65. LiveAndLetDie

    OP3, my own grades were kind of iffy at the beginning of college, because my college required two years of “core classes” across all fields of study before you could narrow down to your chosen major. I majored in history and always excelled in courses that applied to my major (and that were similar; humanities were never a problem) but my grades in those other “core” courses (sciences, maths) were lower, in part because I struggled in them but also in part because I was young and the “ugh but this isn’t what I want to major in” feelings were strong. Now that I’ve gone on to get multiple degrees in my field I feel like if someone asked for my transcripts and held those early grades against me in some way, I’d consider it unfair–not only were they earned 15 years ago, but they were not in my chosen field of study.

    Also, my brother went to a Tech college where just barely passing was still a badge of honor in some classes. If this candidate retook courses and eventually passed, it could simply indicate an exceptionally difficult subject matter (my brother’s really smart, has a photographic memory, and would study for hours… he’d know the material backwards and forwards and still say his tests sometimes seemed to be in another language. It was just the nature of his college).

    Reply
    1. MashaKasha

      Same here. We had to take 2.5 years of almost all required classes; most of them really advanced math, but also a lot of, how do I say it, politically-themed humanities. I failed some of the classes and had to retake the exams, and got bad grades in others. If someone decided to hold it against me almost 30 years later that I got a low grade in History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or that I failed advanced calculus in my second year, when my degree is in CS, I’d be puzzled, confused, and wanting to know the logic behind their thinking.

      Reply
  66. nnn

    I think the appropriate thing for #1 to do is decline to give permission on the grounds that he doesn’t have jurisdiction.

    Reply
  67. OldMom

    OP1, I am a single mother of a now-adult daughter. When she and my future son-in-law were discussing marriage, she asked me if I would want him to ask me for my permission. They didn’t want me to feel slighted if I was by some bizarre circumstance fond of this tradition. I declined. My point is that this honor, if it is to be observed, belongs to the person or persons who raised her, not the nearest male authority figure. This smacks of “which male in her life most resembles her owner.” Same goes for getting walked down the aisle. Most women are capable of transporting themselves aisle-ward under their own power. If there is an accompanying person, that again is the person who raised her. Not the most owner-like male.
    In your situation, I would decline the “honor” from your not-employee, with a simple “inappropriate” or other similar wording. If you actually think he’s a good guy, you could say, “but of course you have my congratulations as a friend” to soften the refusal. Then, depending on your relationship with your actual employee, you might tell her about it in a “I hope you are aware of this” way. If she asked him to do it, that’s weird and you might want to gently assert professional boundaries. If she didn’t know, that’s more of a red flag on their relationship. You might ask her if she feels safe with this guy, suggest domestic abuse resources, or pre-marital counseling, or, “it seems like your boyfriend views woman as male property…be careful as it could be a red flag.” That would all be overreach for most office relationships but if she actually does see you as a father figure, it could be conveyed as protectiveness. (I might be overreacting but I wouldn’t want anyone I cared about to marry a guy so…either stupid and/or paternalistic… So I would try to find a way to warn her.)

    Reply
  68. Ciscononymous

    OP3: Did you interview me??? Other than the well-spoken part, this could have been about me. Every job, it seems like, wants my college transcripts, which don’t make me look good because of all the failed courses on them.
    Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I struggled with depression during college. I slept 18-hour days, which didn’t leave a lot of time to go to class. I’ve since gotten help for that and things are a lot better now, to the point that I can function like a regular person, but disclosing that in interviews brings a stigma all its own, so I stopped doing that.
    I retook two courses recently and raised grades from D and F to A and B, respectively. I hope that shows that things have improved for me, but I’m pretty sure hiring managers are viewing this the way that you are and I still am afraid I’ll never find work in my field because of what happened in college. I’ve been working in an unrelated field for several years, and until recently, there was never an upward path (I’m an admin for our training unit, and now I might be able to become a trainer). I still want to work in the field I majored in, but I realize it may never happen for me.

    Reply
    1. FlibbertyG

      For what it’s worth, that seems odd to me. I’ve never been asked for transcripts. I wonder if this is field-specific (are you trying to get into academia?). I’m in an office job and we often note that it doesn’t really matter what your major even *was* never mind your grades on specific courses – as long as you have a degree.

      Reply
  69. Casuan

    revelation:
    The only ways this bizarre scenario makes sense to me is if the fiancé was raised with the strict ethos that One Must Ask the Father of the Bride for Permission to Marry, not unlike how to this day I automatically put a coaster under glasses because Coasters Are to Be Used.
    Or if the fiancé was fulfilling a promise to a dying relative… or if sleep-walking or hallucinogenics were involved… or if it’s some type of prank.

    What astonishes me is that I doubt any such scenario exists!

    I gotta give points to the fiancé for wanting to uphold an antiquated tradition, although Fiancé loses too many points for being so… :::shaking my head in attempt to think of the right word & then shaking my head even more because this really is too out there::: bizarre.

    Reply
  70. Cath in Canada

    My husband says he briefly thought about asking my dad for permission, but then realized that a) it was ridiculous and b) my dad would probably tease him about how ridiculous it was for the rest of his life, e.g. by pretending to be offended if hubby made me a cup of tea without asking for my dad’s permission first.

    My dad later confirmed that this was an accurate prediction.

    Reply
  71. Clever Name

    #2- I was that efficient employee once. Whatever you do, don’t tell them to stop asking you for more work because there isn’t any and then penalize them on their annual review for spending too much time on the internet. Or if you must do this, at the very least, tell them first and don’t wait an entire year to bring it up “officially”. That job was so, so painful. I had to force myself to find ways to slow down so I’d look busy. I would re-type stuff instead of using copy+paste. Ugh.

    Reply
  72. VermiciousKnit

    OP#3 – I got a degree in interior design in a college that was highly respected for design and architecture. There were several classes in the design/arch degree program that more than half of every class failed the first time, and a big chunk the section time. The classes were rigorous and required us to know building code backward and forward with no mistakes (just like we’d be expected in the working world.) I was lucky in that I eked out passing grades, but it would not be considered unusual at all for someone in our programs to have taken and failed that class once or twice, and yet were still enormously competent designers and architects.

    Of course, I don’t know that that kind of context would make any sense in your field, but I can say there are certain situations where such a thing is not an indication of a problem.

    Reply
  73. Student

    #1 – Just give your blessing (do not use the word permission), smile, wish them well, and move on.

    There is seriously only one response to a stranger asking for you to approve of their marriage. You say you approve, even if you are indifferent or slightly uncomfortable or utterly disgusted, and you move on.

    You tell it as a funny work anecdote 2 years down the road.

    This is seriously and utterly weird. It’s also completely harmless and requires nothing but a tiny moment of kindness from you to indulge their odd one-off request. Treat it more like a stranger in a store asking you if their new haircut looks good, and less like a literal request to evaluate the boyfriend’s suitability as a husband for your employee.

    I never did anything like this, but I can immediately recognize the place it comes from. This is somebody who admires you and is a bit starved for Tradition, and Parental Approval, and Being Part Of Society. It’s not about you in any meaningful way. You will make their day, and you won’t likely have to weigh in on future potential husbands. If you say you’re uncomfortable, no matter how you phrase it, they’ll take it the wrong way and feel terrible. If they try to pull you into the wedding ceremony, that’s the place to draw the line and say you can’t make it.

    Reply

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